Lactase deficiency: what is it, how to eat with it and how to replace milk

food Dec 01, 2019
All you need to know about milk intolerance

Lactose intolerance, or lactase deficiency, is a fairly common problem, and in few places you can find reliable and consistent information about what it really is, how this deficiency manifests itself and how to adjust nutrition to improve health.

What is lactase deficiency?

Lactose is a carbohydrate that is mainly found in milk and dairy products. Lactase deficiency is a common digestive problem when the body loses its ability to digest lactose.

Our body digests lactose using an enzyme called lactase. This enzyme breaks down lactose into simple sugars: glucose and galactose, which are easily absorbed into the bloodstream.

People with lactose intolerance do not produce enough lactase, so lactose remains in the digestive system, where it is exposed to bacteria, resulting in a fermentation process with the release of gases.

Depending on the main reason why the body does not produce enough lactase, lactose intolerance may be temporary or permanent.

Most cases of lactase deficiency, which develops in adults, are inherited and persist for life. In young children, the condition is often caused by an infection of the digestive system and can last only a few weeks.

What are the symptoms of lactase deficiency?

Symptoms of lactose intolerance usually develop within a few hours after consuming a lactose-containing food or drink. This can be flatulence, diarrhea, bloating, cramping and pain in the stomach, rumbling in the abdomen, nausea.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance can be similar to some other diseases, so it is very important to consult a doctor to make a diagnosis before removing milk and dairy products from your diet.

If a doctor suspects lactose intolerance, he may suggest giving up lactose-containing foods and drinks for a period of about two weeks in order to check whether improvement will come.

Lactose intolerance is not the same as an allergy to milk or dairy products. Food allergies are caused by the reaction of the immune system to a certain type of food. Typical allergy symptoms include rash, shortness of breath, and itching.

If you are allergic to a product, even a very small amount will be enough to cause a reaction. At the same time, most people with lactase deficiency can eat a small amount of lactose without any consequences, although this amount is individual.

How to change nutrition with lactase deficiency

To adjust the diet, you need to consult your doctor or nutritionist. It’s important to build a diet to cope with the symptoms of lactose intolerance, but to get enough nutrients. Most likely, you just have to reduce the amount of lactose that you eat or drink.

It is not necessary to completely exclude foods and drinks with lactose. They are rich in calcium and are important for the body.

People with lactase deficiency are able to digest different amounts of lactose. Studies show that most patients can consume 12 g of lactose, which is about a glass of milk, without symptoms or with symptoms in a lighter form.

You will be able to transfer milk and dairy products if you consume a small amount of milk at a time and with food, add milk and dairy products to your diet gradually and observe your well-being. Without fear, you can eat dairy products - yogurt, kefir, fermented baked milk. Lactose in these products is already processed by lactic acid bacteria. Hard cheese can also be eaten.

In some cases, the doctor may prescribe lactase replacement drugs that help absorb lactose from milk and dairy products.

How to find out if lactose is in ready-made foods and foods

Lactose is found in all dairy products and may be found in other foods and drinks.

Milk and its derivatives can be found in industrially processed, canned, frozen, packaged and finished products. These are bread and other bakery products, such as pancakes, cookies, cakes and other industrial baked goods. Lactose is almost always found in processed foods: breakfast cereals, instant potatoes, soups, margarines, salad dressings, chips and other ready-made snacks. Processed meat products, milk-based powder protein shakes, ready-made smoothies, protein bars, coffee cream substitutes and whipped cream substitutes - they also have lactose.

Before buying, you can check the list of ingredients on the product packaging to better understand whether the product really contains lactose. The finished product should not contain milk, lactose, whey, cottage cheese, milk processing products, milk powder.

A small amount of lactose can be found in some prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Before taking them, you need to discuss with your doctor if you can take this amount of lactose in your medicine.

Using lactose-free and low-lactose milk and dairy products can help you lower your lactose intake. These products can be found in stores and they are just as healthy as regular milk and dairy products. This is lactose-free milk, various types of vegetable milk, yoghurts and some cheeses. At the same time, the National Health Service of Great Britain recommends limiting the use of rice milk for children under five years of age due to the likelihood of arsenic in the product.

How to make up for the lack of vitamins and nutrients

Milk and dairy products are the most common sources of calcium. If you refuse them or reduce their amount in the diet, calcium deficiency may appear. To prevent this from happening, you need to include non-dairy products in which enough calcium is included in the diet. This, for example, fish with soft bones, broccoli and leafy green vegetables, oranges, almonds, Brazil nuts and legumes, tofu. Dairy products are suitable for people with lactase deficiency - they also contain calcium.

Vitamin D helps our body absorb and use calcium. That is why with lactase deficiency it is necessary to include in the diet products that contain vitamin D. These are eggs and some types of fish, for example salmon. There are ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and orange juices, additionally fortified with vitamin D. If you carry a small amount of milk or dairy products without symptoms, it is better to choose those that have vitamin D.

In Russia, vitamin D is recommended in the form of nutritional supplements for adults and children in a dosage of 1000-1500 IU. Before using dietary supplements, vitamins, or any other additional or alternative medicines, you should consult your doctor.

What you need to know about lactase deficiency

  1. This is not an allergy. Lactase deficiency occurs due to insufficient production of the lactase enzyme, which is responsible for the breakdown of lactose.
  2. Symptoms usually appear within a few hours after consuming a lactose-containing food or drink. Common symptoms include flatulence, diarrhea, bloating, cramping and pain in the stomach, rumbling in the stomach, and nausea.
  3. To know for sure that you have lactase deficiency, you need to see a doctor. He will schedule a series of examinations to confirm the diagnosis.
  4. Nutrition should be adjusted only with the participation of a doctor, who will help balance the amount of nutrients in the diet when refusing milk.
  5. During a diet with lactase deficiency, you need to eat enough non-dairy products that contain calcium and vitamin D. The latter is especially important because it helps to absorb calcium.