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Lactose Intolerance in a Nutshell

Do you often feel bloated, gassy or have an upset stomach after drinking milk or eating dairy products? You might have a common condition called lactose intolerance.

 

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Being lactose intolerant means you don’t make enough of a certain enzyme that helps your body break down sugar in milk. The sugar ends up in your colon (rather than being absorbed into your bloodstream) where it ferments and causes discomforting symptoms and digestive problems.

 

Who Gets Lactose Intolerance?

It is thought that about 75% of the world’s adult population is unable to break down lactose, making them lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance can start suddenly, even if you’ve never had trouble with milk or dairy products before.

 

Can Babies Be Lactose Intolerant?

When babies are born, their digestive tracts are equipped with lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose in their mothers’ milk. However, the digestive system’s lactase levels diminish over time, resulting in lactose intolerance. The condition typically only starts showing up after age three in children who were born full-term.

 

Lactose Intolerance Symptoms

The symptoms of lactose intolerance depend on the amount of lactose that’s consumed. The more lactose you consume, the more symptoms you will experience. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can occur within minutes to hours after drinking milk or eating dairy products and can range from mild to severe.

 

Here are some common symptoms of lactose intolerance:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

Lactose Intolerance vs Milk Allergy

Is lactose intolerance the same thing as a milk allergy? While the two may share similar symptoms, they are entirely different conditions. Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem, while milk allergy involves the immune system acting as though anything made from milk is a threat to your body. Milk allergies tend to appear within the first year of life, while an infant’s digestive system is still quite immature. Lactose intolerance can start in childhood into adolescence and can become more noticeable into adulthood.

 

A Delicious Dairy Alternative

There is no cure for lactose intolerance, but there are lots of ways to live well with it and still enjoy delicious foods. Because it is not derived from the milk of animals, coconut milk is free of lactose and a perfect choice for people pursuing a lactose-free diet.

 

Choosing coconut milk over dairy for meals, sauces and desserts is a surefire way to avoid lactose-intolerance repercussions as well as enjoy a lovely rich taste along with nutrients and fibre.

 

Try coconut milk in creamed spinach or other creamed vegetables, or as part of a breading for fried chicken or fried coconut shrimp. Coconut milk is popular in Asian dishes, including curries and noodle dishes. It’s also well-known for its role in pina coladas and other tropical drinks. You can also buy or make your own dairy-free, coconut milk ice cream.

 

Read “5 Easy Ways with Coconut Milk” blog post for more great ideas on how to use this versatile milk in your kitchen.