How many times has it happened to you, that you thought you knew something and then life happens and you just have to revisit and start over? Probably too many times to care about. Let me tell you one such recent incident that happened to a colleague of mine. A healthy female in her mid-30’s, got violently sick, puking, diarrhea, the whole rigmarole. Everyone thought food-poisoning, and then some days later when she joined back, it was accompanied by the usual questions – how are you and what happened? The answer to my question only left me dumbfounded and curious than before. She was diagnosed with lactose intolerance. The reason behind my astonishment was I had gone on many tea breaks, and ice cream parties with her. Hello, dairy!
I thought I knew what lactose intolerance was, kind of an allergy that one is born with which makes it nearly impossible for your body to process lactose (the sugar in milk and milk products). As it turns out I was only partially correct.
Lactose intolerance is not an allergy, but a lack/deficiency of lactase (an enzyme produced in our small intestines) whose work is to break down the lactose in dairy products when consumed by us, thereby making it easier for us to digest it. Furthermore, one is not born with it as such, you may have it since a baby or you could develop it later at any stage of life. The rest part of my knowledge holds true, the symptoms include:
- Abdominal Cramps
- In some fatigue, dizziness
These symptoms would get triggered within 30 to 120 minutes of ingesting lactose, and generally, people can self diagnose this condition owing to these signs. Still for getting sure, you can avoid dairy completely for a couple of weeks to see if your body was indeed reacting to the dairy, and also by introducing dairy in smaller doses in your diet, thus you can analyze it’s a reaction on your body and how much of it is acceptable to your system. For an official diagnosis, consult a doctor who can perform either of the two tests:
- Hydrogen test: where your breath is analyzed to see how much hydrogen you are exhaling (which happens when the lactose isn’t broken down but gets fermented in the colon).
- Blood test: in this glucose levels are checked a couple of hours later after giving you a lactose filled drink.
The sad part about this condition is that it is neither preventable nor curable. And the treatment mainly requires making diet changes.
- Reduce the amount of dairy and dairy products
- You can take lactase supplements to help breakdown the lactose when consuming normal dairy
- Replace lactose with lactose-free items and there are many options available.
Many people worry that being diagnosed lactose intolerant means end of dairy from there lives which could lead to calcium deficiency or weak bones, however, like we said before one can still consume small portions of dairy and that would depend upon person to person. Plus there are many options to get a good amount of calcium in one – tofu, almonds, kale, soy milk, egg yolks, fishes like tuna salmon etcetera.
Eventually I would like to conclude revisiting a health topic or some other situation in life doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, a fresh pair of eyes on something old can turn it into something new, something better, and at the very least easily bearable.