Do you know the signs of lactose intolerance?

Do you know the signs of lactose intolerance?

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. While ice cream may be dubbed America’s favorite dessert, those who are lactose intolerant aren’t singing its praises.

In fact, it is estimated that 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, according to the National Institutes of Health. Although dairy intolerance usually begins around the age of two, many teens and even adults can develop the sensitivity.

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest and absorb lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. It stems from low or absent levels of an enzyme called lactase found in the small intestine that is designed to break down lactose during digestion. Instead of breaking down the sugar, it ferments – which can cause bloating and discomfort.

Dr. Rockford Yapp, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says signs of lactose intolerance usually occur within 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking a milk-based product. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, cramps, rumbling or gurgling sounds in the stomach, diarrhea, gas and nausea.

“While being lactose intolerant is not life threatening, the symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe pain,” says Dr. Yapp.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for lactose intolerance. Instead, Dr. Yapp suggests cutting back on dairy products and choosing lactose-free milk, yogurt and cheese.

It’s also important to read food labels and look for ingredients that may contain lactose, such as whey and other milk by-products, says Dr. Yapp. In addition, some processed foods contain dairy, including breakfast cereal, soup, sauces, gravy, salad dressing, pancake batter, chocolate and baked goods.

Dr. Yapp suggests seeking care from your medical provider if you experience severe symptoms, as it may be a sign of other medical issues including intestinal infection or disease.

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Comments

3 Comments

  1. Me! Me! I am lactose-intolerant. Was surprised when I suffered from a can chicken and wild rice soup. I only buy Lactaid milk. But can’t find lactose-free ice cream. So I take a caplet called Lactaid before eating it. It’s my guilty pleasure–because I’m diabetic and must be very careful about that.
    The only recourse is to take the time to really read the labels!

    • Minnie! I am lactose intolerant also. There are lots of different options out there to substitute for dairy ice cream: cashew ice cream, soy ice cream, coconut milk ice cream. Lactaid even has their own line of ice creams as well! Ben and Jerry’s just came out with a line of dairy free ice cream too, which is fantastic (obviously, ice cream is my guilty pleasure too!).

  2. You can also find two flavors of Breyer’s lactose-free ice cream in 56 oz. tubs — my local Mariano’s carries both chocolate and vanilla flavors, while my local Wal-Mart usually stocks the vanilla only. Each store prices them the same as the other Breyer’s regular/low-carb flavors in that store, usually under $4 each.

About the Author

Johnna Kelly
Johnna Kelly

Johnna Kelly, healthe news contributor, is a manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She is a former newspaper reporter and spent nearly 10 years as a public relations professional working for state and county government. During her time as a communications staffer for the Illinois General Assembly, she was integral in drafting and passing legislation creating Andrea's Law, the nation's first murderer registry. In her spare time, she volunteers at a local homeless shelter, enjoys traveling, photography and watching the Chicago Bulls.