Lactose Intolerance

16 Mar
“I’ve been quite sick since January.  I had taken antibiotics for a dental infection, but it really messed up my body.  I was upping my pro-biotic intake.  Little did I realize that another side effect of antibiotic usage, besides killing off the good bacteria, was lactose intolerance.  So here I was downing yogurt daily trying to increase my probiotics, and it was backfiring (no pun intended there).  I was only getting sicker and sicker.  Then a friend mentioned lactose intolerance as a side effect.  I immediately cut out all dairy, and switched to a high-powered, dairy-free pro-biotic capsule.  I feel like a new woman.  I can’t even have butter in anything.  I’m learning how to live completely dairy-free.  I don’t know if this is temporary or permanent, but at least I’m not in nearly constant agony anymore.   I’d love to read what you could possibly write about lactose intolerance, dairy substitutes and probiotics.”  – C. in Louisiana

Thanks for the note, C.  I can imagine readers everywhere being able to relate to your experience.   Fortunately, your friend was helpful in probing out what could possibly be causing your continued illness, pain and digestive discomfort.

Lactase is the enzyme required to digest lactose, otherwise known as milk and dairy products.  This enzyme, that stores in your small intestine, breaks down lactose into simpler sugar forms called glucose and galactose.  Basically, dairy transforms into simple sugars to fuel our body.

You mentioned that you had just taken antibiotics, which can wipe away the good digestive flora and fauna, as well as bad bacteria.  Folks most at risk of being enzyme deficient are those who have recently had surgery, been on a round of antibiotics or suffer from acid reflux.

People with lactose intolerance are not producing enough of the lactase enzyme to break down lactose.  Instead, undigested lactose sits in the gut and gets broken down by bacteria; causing gas, bloating, stomach cramps and diarrhea.  Prolonged lactase deficiency can result in skin and sinus allergies, confusion and an inability to concentrate.

Lactose intolerance is fairly common.  The hydrogen breath and stool acidity are both medical tests that can show a specific allergy to dairy, but results can vary from day-to-day based on what enzymes we have enough of or are deficient in.

Cutting all dairy out of your diet seems to have had a positive impact on your over-all wellbeing.  If removing any particular food or drink makes you feel better, I think it’s a good idea to stick with that, at least until your whole digestive system has recovered.

According to numerous experts, once the lactase enzyme has been restored to your body, you should be able to digest dairy with ease.  My only concerns are how extreme the lactase deficiency was and how long the deficiency lasted.

Trial and error is often the way many people find out if they have recovered enough to put dairy back on their menu.  This may not take long for short-term sufferers but for long-term lactose intolerance, dairy may be off the menu from now on.  A discussion with your physician may also yield some helpful dietary direction.

Definitely look out for the little culprits like butter, cheeses and blended sour cream.  Some dairy substitutes are milks made from soy, almond, hemp and rice.  I’ve used each one of these and they all work just as well as cream for your hot tea and coffee.   Nut pate’s are also a delicious alternative to cheeses.  Using a food processor, you can simply toss together some easy ingredients like almonds or pecans with a few of your favorite spices, sea salt and olive oil, creating a super nutritious dairy-free cheesy addition to any meal.

You can restore food enzymes by taking an oral supplement.  Always, make sure your digestive enzymes are dairy-free.  It may help to purchase a broad spectrum pro-biotic that includes lactase for dairy digestion, as well as bifidus and acidophilus to aid in over-all digestion of proteins and fats, yeast balance in the body as well as increased immunity to allergens.  Remember, the highest quality enzymes are “live culture” and can best be found in the refrigerated section of your local health food store.

Here’s to your health!

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