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You’ve probably heard about lactose intolerance, a condition that makes a lot of people avoid milk and other dairy products.
 
Lactose is a sugar that is found in substances like milk and yoghurt. People with lactose intolerance often have an abdominal discomfort after taking foods that contain lactose.

As with most popular diseases and conditions, there are so many myths and untrue statements about lactose intolerance. Those myths end up confusing the public, making people unsure what they should eat, avoid or how to best manage it.

In this post, we would be looking at 7 simple truths about lactose intolerance, and possibly debunk most popular myths about this condition.

1. It has to do with an enzyme deficiency.
As I earlier mentioned, lactose is a sugar found in milk and many dairy products. It is actually made up of two simple sugars (glucose and galactose). Normally during digestion, an enzyme in the small intestine called lactase helps to break down lactose into glucose and galactose.
The absence or deficiency of this enzyme can lead to an inability of the intestines to break down lactose, hence the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Some common symptoms of lactose intolerance are:

The symptoms usually kick in about 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating foods that contain lactose.
2. Most people are not born intolerant.
Most people with lactose intolerance developed a deficiency of lactase as they grew older. It is very rare to find babies that are born with lactose intolerance. As we grow older, there is a decrease in the quantity of lactose produced by the small intestines of most people, making them more likely to develop lactose intolerance.

3. Lactose intolerance does not mean you should avoid all dairy products.

Many people believe that lactose intolerance means the complete avoidance of milk and all dairy products. This is simply untrue. If you are lactose intolerance, this does not mean you need to avoid everything dairy.
Here’s why: Milk and other dairy products contain many important vitamins and minerals that are necessary for good health. Staying away from dairy products completely could lead to a deficiency of other nutrients. If you are intolerant, when next you’re at the store, check for lactose-free dairy products, they contain the necessary vitamins and minerals without giving you any abdominal discomfort.
4. It is not as common as you think.
Nowadays, so many people wrongly think they are lactose intolerant. Even though it is quite popular, it is not as common as most people think. Its prevalence also differs based on ethnicity. Its prevalence is as high as 90% among East Asians, 30% of Indians and 5% of Brits. It is also quite common in people who are Jewish, Arab or West African.

5. You can’t self-diagnose lactose intolerance.

Contrary to what people believe, you actually can’t diagnose lactose intolerance by yourself. The reason is that not everyone with lactose intolerance would have obvious symptoms. Also, other diseases and conditions like irritable bowel syndrome can mimic the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Tests like hydrogen breath test are objective means by which doctors can diagnose this condition.

6. Lactose can be found in other foods apart from dairy products.

Milk is not the only food that contains lactose, many foods on the shelves of food stores contain lactose, so it is important to look at labels if you are lactose intolerant. Lactose can be found in some salad dressings, potato chips, bread and sausages.
7. It can be well managed.
If you think you have lactose intolerance, it’s advisable to visit a doctor to confirm it and manage it properly. However here are some tips for you:
Don’t discard cow-milk, rather look for lactose-free cow milk or dairy products.
There are lactase tablets that can be taken before ingesting lactose-containing foods. These tablets improve the digestion of lactose.
Instead of taking large quantities of lactose-containing foods, try taking them in little quantities in combination with other foods that are lactose-free. It could help prevent symptoms.
Hard cheese like Swiss and Cheddar can be taken as they contain little or no lactose.

Author Profile
Dr. Omiete Charles-Davies is a medical doctor and founder of 25 Doctors, a website where you can ask doctors health questions online.

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  You’ve probably heard about lactose intolerance, a condition that makes a lot of people avoid milk and other dairy products.   Lactose is a sugar that is found in substances like milk and yoghurt. People with lactose intolerance often have an abdominal discomfort after taking foods that contain lactose. As with most...