Is It Lactose Intolerance? Recognizing The Symptoms And Seeking Solutions

Lactose intolerance is a common digestive disorder that affects a significant portion of the population. It occurs when the body cannot fully digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. Although lactose intolerance is not life-threatening, it can cause discomfort and interfere with daily life. Recognizing the symptoms is crucial to understanding if you may be suffering from lactose intolerance and taking appropriate action to treat the condition.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

  • Indigestion: One of the most common symptoms of lactose intolerance is indigestion after eating foods containing lactose. These can include bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. These symptoms typically appear within a few hours of consuming dairy products.
  • Nausea And Vomiting: Some people with lactose intolerance may experience nausea and vomiting after consuming dairy products. This may be due to the body's inability to break down lactose, leading to indigestion.
  • Abdominal Pain: Persistent or recurring abdominal pain can be a symptom of lactose intolerance. Pain can range from mild discomfort to severe spasms, and can significantly affect daily activities and quality of life.
  • Excessive Gas: Experiencing excessive gas, including bloating (gas) and belching after consuming dairy products, can be a sign of lactose intolerance. The undigested lactose in the gut can ferment and produce gas as a by-product.
  • Diarrhoea: Frequent soft or watery stools after eating foods containing lactose can indicate lactose intolerance. The inability to digest lactose can create an imbalance in the gut, leading to diarrhoea.
  • Gas and Bloating: Lactose intolerance can cause gas and a feeling of fullness or bloating in the abdomen. This occurs due to the fermentation of undigested lactose in the colon, resulting in gas and abdominal bloating.
  • Fatigue and Weakness: In some cases, lactose intolerance can lead to fatigue and weakness. This can be a result of nutrient malabsorption caused by impaired lactose digestion. When essential nutrients are not properly absorbed, it can impact overall energy levels and vitality.
  • Skin Issues:Although less common, some people with lactose intolerance may experience skin issues such as rashes, hives, or eczema after consuming dairy products. These symptoms can be an allergic reaction or an inflammatory reaction caused by lactose intolerance.
  • Headaches: Headaches, particularly migraines, have been reported in some individuals as a symptom of lactose intolerance. Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, it is believed that the body's response to lactose digestion problems can trigger headaches in susceptible individuals.
  • Weight Loss: In severe cases of undiagnosed or untreated lactose intolerance, weight loss can occur. This is because the body is unable to absorb enough nutrients from dairy products, leading to a calorie deficit and subsequent weight loss.

Foods to Be Avoided

  • Milk-fresh, evaporated, condensed or dried
  • Milk products like curd, buttermilk, lassi
  • Milk products like butter, ghee, cream
  • Milk products likepaneer, processed cheese, khoa
  • Ice-creams, pastries, biscuits, wafers
  • Cakes, chocolate, éclairs, chocolate lolly pops, chewing gums
  • Baking mixes, gulabjamun mix
  • Custards, milk based desserts-kheersphirni, fruit cream
  • Cream soups
  • Buns, bread, bread rolls
  • Burfi, rasgulla, gulabjamuns
  • Any food containing milk derivatives- casein, sodium or calcium, caseinate, whey, milk solids
  • Bournvita, complan, horlicks
  • Food with suffix 'lact'

Foods Which Can Be Included

  • Rice milk, almond milk, oats milk, coconut milk, barley milk, soy milk
  • Oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon & sugar
  • Eggs
  • Peanut butter/jelly/dry fruits
  • Mayonnaise/mustard sauce (read label)
  • Calcium rich-broccoli, juices, nuts
  • Non-dairy creamers
  • Sago/corn/channa/riceflakes/potato/bajra/murmura
  • All cooking should be done in milk free utensils
  • If you experience any of the above symptoms after consuming dairy products, you should definitely consult a doctor for proper assessment and diagnosis. They may recommend lactose intolerance tests, such as a lactose tolerance test or a hydrogen breath test, to confirm the condition. If lactose intolerance is diagnosed, dietary changes such as reducing or eliminating lactose-containing foods and incorporating lactose-free alternatives can help effectively manage symptoms. Remember that everyone's lactose tolerance is different. Therefore, it's important to listen to your body and make the necessary adjustments for better digestive health and overall well-being.

    Dr.Karuna Chaturvedi
    Chief Dietitian
    Dietetics Department
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