Are you or a loved one struggling with lactose intolerance? Before reaching for medication, you can easily manage lactose intolerance with a few simple lifestyle changes. Here’s how to treat lactose intolerance in the comfort of your own home.
Quick facts: Treating Lactose Intolerance At Home
Understanding Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder caused by the inability to digest lactose, the main sugar found in dairy products. It can cause various symptoms including abdominal pain and bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
It is important to understand what lactose intolerance is and the triggers for it in order to develop effective strategies to manage the symptoms at home.
What is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body is unable to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. The undigested sugar passes through the small intestine and into the colon, where bacteria break down the sugar and produce gas, bloating, cramps, abdominal pain, and frequent or watery stools. It is estimated that 65% of people worldwide are affected by lactose intolerance to some degree.
People with lactose intolerance can reduce their symptoms by avoiding foods that contain lactose or utilizing over-the-counter medications such as Lactaid or Dairy Ease to help with digestion. Other alternatives include using dairy-free milks (such as almond milk) or substituting ingredients such as yogurt in recipes (such as sour cream). It is also important to speak to a healthcare professional if symptoms persist, as they may provide further advice and treatments specific to an individual’s needs.
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder that affects people who are unable to digest lactose, the main sugar in milk. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include stomach cramps, bloating, abdominal pain, flatulence, nausea and diarrhea. These symptoms typically occur within 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming dairy products.
People with lactose intolerance can reduce their symptoms by avoiding or limiting their intake of dairy products and by consuming lactase enzyme supplements that help break down the lactose in their systems. There are also several alternative milks available on the market today such as soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk that are suitable for those with lactose intolerance. Additionally, individuals can experiment with different brands of dairy products, as some may be more easily digested than others due to differences in processing methods used.
Causes of Lactose Intolerance
Lactose Intolerance is the body’s inability to break down the sugar called lactose, which is found in dairy products. The inability to process and digest lactose is caused by a lack of the enzyme known as lactase, which is produced by specialized cells that line the small intestine. When these cells are unable to produce enough of this enzyme or the person has a total absence of it, they experience an intolerance to lactose.
There are multiple factors that can contribute to someone developing Lactose Intolerance such as:
- age-related conditions where, over time, lactase enzyme production decreases;
- autoimmune diseases like celiac disease; and
- certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome and even some ethnic backgrounds.
These individuals may develop an intolerance at a much earlier age than others and may have symptoms occur more frequently and more severely than others with the same condition.
Treatment for Lactose Intolerance includes making lifestyle changes such as:
- reducing intake of dairy products;
- taking enzymatic supplements (such as lactase tablets);
- eliminating certain foods from your diet that contain dairy products or other ingredients that may cause problems for someone with lactase deficiency.
Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Diet and lifestyle changes are an integral part of treating lactose intolerance. Food and drinks that contain a high amount of lactose can provoke symptoms and should be avoided. In addition to this, limiting dairy and other lactose-containing products in the diet is recommended.
Furthermore, certain lifestyle modifications can also help to control symptoms. Let’s take a look at the different aspects of this:
Avoiding Dairy Products
Avoiding dairy products is the most effective way to manage lactose intolerance. This means eliminating all foods that contain milk or milk by-products such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.
Many packaged and processed foods also contain hidden sources of dairy, such as whey and casein, so it’s essential to read labels carefully to avoid these ingredients. Additionally, dairy alternatives such as soy milk, coconut milk and almond milk are lactose-free options. However, some of these alternative milks may contain other ingredients that are inflammatory for certain people with food sensitivities/allergies. Therefore, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare practitioner before introducing alternative milks into the diet.
Eating Lactose-Free Foods
Eating lactose-free foods is one of the most important things that someone with lactose intolerance can do to help manage their symptoms. Lactose-free foods are those that don’t contain any lactose or products that contain very little lactose. These may include foods such as soy milk, almond milk, and other plant-based milks, hard cheeses, and yogurt made from non-dairy sources.
Additionally, some people with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate a small amount of dairy without experiencing symptoms. If this is the case for a person, they should only consume small amounts of dairy products and always take their tolerance level into consideration.
Eating lactose-free foods will help ensure that people with this condition get enough calcium and other nutrients while avoiding uncomfortable symptoms.
Adding Probiotics to Your Diet
Adding probiotics to your diet is an important part of managing lactose intolerance. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help improve the balance of good and bad gut bacteria, as well as supporting overall digestive health. These organisms, also known as “friendly” or “good” bacteria, play an important role in breaking down food and aiding the body in absorbing nutrients.
The type of probiotic you take is important in order to ensure it is specifically targeting any issues associated with lactose intolerance. Look for products with a ‘Bifidobacterium’ strain as it has been found to reduce symptoms when used alongside a lactose-reduced diet.
Probiotics can be added to your diet through:
- Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and pickles.
- Supplements such as capsules or powder forms taken once daily with food or at bedtime on an empty stomach.
Treatments and Home Remedies
Lactose intolerance can cause uncomfortable symptoms, but there are treatments and home remedies available that can help manage the condition. Taking lactase supplements, limiting dairy intake, and eating lactose-free foods are all potential solutions.
Let’s explore some of the other treatments and home remedies for lactose intolerance:
Taking Lactase Supplements
Lactase supplements are oral tablets or drops that contain the enzyme lactase, which is needed to break down and digest lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products. Taking these supplement before eating dairy can be helpful for those who are lactose intolerant. By taking these supplements, it allows the body to break down and digest lactose in an easier manner without experiencing any discomfort or symptoms.
It is important to check with your doctor before beginning any supplements as some may interact with other medications you may currently be taking. Additionally, it is always best to practice moderation when deciding how much dairy to consume and listening to your body for any signs of discomfort.
Eating Smaller Portions
Eating smaller portions of lactose-containing foods may help individuals with lactose intolerance by allowing them to eat and enjoy the food without discomfort. For example, instead of drinking a large glass of milk, someone with lactose intolerance may limit their intake to a few sips at a time. Eating small amounts throughout the day can also be beneficial for those who are sensitive to lactose.
Additionally, if an individual is intolerant to lactose but does not want to completely cut it out of their diet, consuming dairy products such as yogurt or cheese with active bacterial cultures may also help as these bacteria can break down some of the sugar in milk and make it easier for the body to digest.
Trying Herbal Remedies
Herbal remedies can be a great way to alleviate and/or manage the symptoms of lactose intolerance. In general, these treatments work best when combined with other home remedies, such as dietary changes and probiotics.
Some herbs commonly used to treat lactose intolerance include peppermint, ginger, fennel, and chamomile. Peppermint is a well-known digestive aid, while fennel can help to soothe intestinal inflammation caused by dairy products. Additionally, both ginger and chamomile are popular for their antispasmodic properties – which may help reduce stomach cramps during periods of indigestion or gastrointestinal distress.
Taking herbal remedies can often provide relief from painful and uncomfortable symptoms associated with lactose intolerance. However, if you experience continued discomfort after trying these treatments for an extended period of time, it’s important to contact your doctor for further assistance.
When to See a Doctor
It is important to take care of yourself when you have lactose intolerance. While there are many ways to manage lactose intolerance with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications, it is important to consult a doctor if you are experiencing severe symptoms or if the symptoms are worsening.
Let’s discuss when it might be time to visit your doctor:
When Symptoms Persist
If the symptoms of lactose intolerance are not improving with the lifestyle changes mentioned above, it may be time to visit a medical professional. While certain over-the-counter medications can help treat the symptoms of lactose intolerance, a doctor can provide more comprehensive advice as well as diagnose any underlying digestive issues that may be causing the problem.
Seeing a doctor is also important if you notice any signs of dehydration due to repeated episodes of diarrhea and vomiting caused by certain foods. Additionally, it’s wise to seek medical advice if you experience any stomach pain or discomfort during meals. This could be an indication of something more serious than lactose intolerance such as an underlying food allergy or sensitivity that requires further investigation.
When Symptoms Are Severe
When symptoms of lactose intolerance are severe, it is recommended to visit your doctor. Severe symptoms can include cramps, bloating, gas, moderate to severe diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Your doctor may be able to provide anti-diarrheal medications to help with some of these symptoms. They can also rule out other possible causes for the symptoms.
If you think your symptoms might be related to lactose intolerance, it’s a good idea to have a doctor evaluate them in order to confirm or rule out the diagnosis. The doctor may request further testing such as a hydrogen breath test or stool acidity tests in order to diagnose lactose intolerance more accurately.
If you have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance by your physician, they may recommend dietary changes in order to reduce your symptoms and help you manage your condition better:
- Avoiding dairy products.
- Limiting high-lactose foods such as ice cream, cheese, and yogurt.
- Eating lactose-reduced or lactose-free products.
- Eating small amounts of dairy products.
- Taking lactase enzyme supplements.
When You Have Other Health Conditions
If you have other health conditions, or if your symptoms are severe, it’s important to get medical attention. A doctor can help you determine whether the symptoms you’re experiencing are actually caused by lactose intolerance or another digestive disorder. In some cases, there may be a combination of disorders at play.
Additionally, if symptoms like bloating, cramping, and diarrhea persist even after trying to cut down on dairy and other foods containing lactose, it’s best to see a medical professional. The doctor can diagnose perspective conditions and create an effective plan for managing them with diet modifications or medications.
FAQs about: Treating Lactose Intolerance At Home
Q: What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
A: Common symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, nausea, and/or diarrhea after consuming dairy products.
Q: How can lactose intolerance be treated at home?
A: Lactose intolerance can be treated at home by limiting the amount of dairy products consumed, replacing dairy products with non-dairy alternatives, and taking lactase enzyme supplements.
Q: What are some dairy alternatives?
A: Some dairy alternatives include almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, soy milk, and rice milk.