What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is an inefficiency to digest a sugar found in milk and most milk products. This sugar is called lactose. Lactose intolerance isn’t harmful, but it can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. There isn’t a cure for a lactose intolerance, but you can manage the condition quite easily by watching how much milk you eat and drink. This can be difficult if you use protein powder when you exercise, though. However, there are protein powders that are completely lactose-free, and we will tell you all about them below.

What Is Lactose?

As we said above, lactose is a sugar found in milk and milk products. Our bodies use an enzyme (lactase) to break down this sugar so we can absorb it into our bodies. However, people with lactose intolerance don’t have enough lactase in their bodies. This means that they can’t digest lactose. Some people cannot even digest it in small quantities.

The Causes Of Lactose Intolerance

There are four sorts of lactose intolerance, and all have different causes.

Primary lactose intolerance – this is the most common form of lactose intolerance. Basically, once we get to a certain age, our bodies stop making lactase. As lactase levels decrease, it becomes harder for us to digest lactose. Most of us start losing our lactase by the age of five. So, by adulthood, it is very difficult for us to digest any lactose.

Secondary lactose intolerance – this occurs due to an illness, injury or in some cases surgery. If any one of these affects the small intestine (where lactase is made), this can cause a lactose intolerance.

Developmental lactose intolerance – This occurs in babies who are born prematurely. This type of lactose intolerance typically goes away on its own and lasts only a short time after birth.

Congenital lactose intolerance – this is very rare and occurs when there is little to no lactase produced from birth. It is a genetic disorder that both parents must have to pass the gene to their baby, hence the rarity.

The Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance

There are many symptoms of lactose intolerance. How bad yours are depends on how much of a tolerance you have and how much milk you have consumed. Some symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • An upset stomach
  • Flatulence (farting)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting

If you experience any of the above half an hour to two hours after you have had anything with milk in it, you should speak with your doctor. Lactose intolerance is just one thing that can cause these symptoms. Of course, these symptoms are part of everyday life. Not everyone with gas has lactose intolerance, for example! But if you’re worried, see your doctor.

What’s Happening In My Body If I’m Lactose Intolerant?

When we drink or eat milk or milk products, our intestines break down the lactose sugar with lactase. It then gets absorbed into the body. However, in people with lactose intolerance, this doesn’t happen, or if it is does, the person doesn’t have enough lactase to break down all the lactose. Instead, the lactose passes through the intestines into the colon where it mixes with bacteria and ferments. So, now you have some form of milky wine inside you, and this is what causes the bloating, gas and diarrhoea mentioned above.

You can test yourself and see whether lactose is responsible for the symptoms that you have, the test is as follows:

  1. Go without milk for a few weeks
  2. If your symptoms disappear, bring milk back into your diary slowly and note how you react
  3. If your symptoms don’t disappear when you cut out dairy, or if they return, see your doctor.

Who Is Affected By Lactose Intolerance?

Well, nearly every adult in the world! Most adults cannot digest milk, over 40% of people stop making enough lactase to digest it between the ages of two and five. It’s estimated that around 30 million people are lactose intolerant, in the USA alone!

How Do I Know If I Am Lactose Intolerant?

There are easy tests to show whether you are lactose intolerant or not. Two of the most common tests for adults are:

  • A blood test – this will show how your body reacts after you have consumed a lot of lactose
  • A breath test – if you exhale a lot of hydrogen when you breathe out, that might mean you are lactose intolerant. This is because hydrogen is given off when lactose ferments in the colon.

Doctors can also take a stool sample, but this usually reserved for babies and children.

How Can I Reduce My Discomfort From Lactose Intolerance?

Well, you can avoid drinking and eating milk and milk products. However, if you like ice cream, there are other ways that you can reduce your discomfort from lactose intolerance. For the most part, you can replace milk and milk products with lactose-free products. They are in every supermarket nowadays, but they do cost a little more than their milky cousins. Alternatively, you can purchase supplements that help your body break down the milk sugars, if you still want to enjoy milk.

However, the only way to really reduce the discomfort from lactose intolerance (if buying something isn’t an option) is to drink less milk. However, you still need vitamin D, calcium and other nutrients found in milk, but instead of milk, you can substitute these foods to get all the nutrients you are missing:

  • Tofu
  • Dried beans
  • Almonds
  • Kale
  • Fatty fish
  • Egg yolks

What about those of you who like taking protein powder as part of your training? Well, there are protein powders that are 100% vegan, like our vegan protein powder. This 100% vegan protein powder gives you everything you need to build muscle and stay strong but has no lactose in it at all. You can now enjoy your workouts without feeling bloated and gassy, and everyone else at the gym will joy their workouts a little more too!

Please check out the homepage of our website for the NEW protein tub! For more information on staying healthy, check out our blog. We have loads of articles on here that can help you live a happy, healthy life.

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