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5 Tips for Dealing with Lactose Intolerance

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Millions of Americans suffer from lactose intolerance, the inability to digest the sugar (lactose) found in many dairy products. A person with lactose intolerance doesn't have enough of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to absorb lactose. So, the lactose sits in their stomach, becomes bacteria, and causes stomach pain, bloating, and other symptoms. If you're dealing with lactose intolerance, use the tips below.

1. Drink lactose-free milk products.

One way to reduce your risk of having a reaction is to replace cow's milk with a lactose-free product. A ConsumerLab.com report found that the fat-free versions of Lactaid, Land O' Lakes Dairy Ease, and Organic Valley Lactose-Free Organic milk were indeed lactose-free. What's more, some of these products included the recommended amount of vitamin D, a deficiency concern for people with lactose intolerance.

2. Research the lactose content in your favorite dairy products.

While some people have discomfort from even the smallest amount of lactose, the worst symptoms tend to develop when consuming products with more than 12 g of lactose. This is why milk, which has 12.5 g of lactose per 8-ounce serving, causes so many issues for the lactose intolerant. If you're going to have a dairy product, limit yourself to foods with less than 12 g of lactose per serving as a starting point to help control symptoms.

3. Use supplements with active enzymes to relieve discomfort.

In the same ConsumerLab.com report mentioned above, researchers found that many of the supplements on the market were useful in reducing discomfort while others weren't as effective. The recommended supplements include Source Naturals Lactase Digest, Solgar Lactase 3500, Puritan's Pride Lactase Enzyme, Lactaid Fast Act Vanilla Twist Flavor, Kirkland Signature Fast Acting Lactase,  and CVS Dairy Relief Fast Acting Vanilla Twist Flavor.

4. Be aware of lactose in surprising foods.

While it's well-known that milk products like yogurt and cheese contain lactose, there are many other foods that contain lactose. In addition to baked goods, pastries, and waffle and bread mixes, lactose can also be found in potato chips, soups, processed meats, candies, and veggies like rhubarb and spinach. For more information, check out this list from the National Institutes of Health.

5. Don't confuse lactose intolerance with a milk allergy.

A milk allergy and lactose intolerance are two different issues. Symptoms of a milk allergy, although varying from person to person, generally include hives, wheezing, vomiting, runny nose, itchy rash, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and watery eyes, according to the Mayo Clinic. A true milk allergy involves the immune system, while lactose intolerance means you don't have enough of the enzyme lactase to break down the milk. The inability to break down the lactose is what leads to an upset stomach. These two issues are often confused, and you should consult your doctor if you think you may have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance.

About The Author

Amanda Carlson-Phillips – Amanda Carlson-Phillips is the vice president of nutrition and research at EXOS. As a registered dietitian, she has provided educational seminars and individual counseling to a variety of professional and elite sports organizations.

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Tags: Food, Supplements, Nutrients, Health