What do you do when you suspect you’re lactose intolerant? 

What do you do when you suspect you’re lactose intolerant? 

Did you know that as a country, we are the fourth largest consumer of cheese in the world? 

In 2023 alone, the UK consumed 780 thousand metric tons of cheese. Overshadowed only by the US, Russia, and Brazil, our nation stands its ground in average consumption per person, considering our humbler population size. 

In fact, our love extends beyond cheese to all dairy products. Yet, it’s estimated that at least 8% of our population is lactose intolerant. Do you feel discomfort after consuming dairy products? If so, you’re not alone. Many people find themselves grappling with symptoms that may indicate lactose intolerance.

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a condition that occurs when your body is unable to properly digest lactose, a type of sugar present in milk and dairy products. The root cause of this inability is a deficiency in lactase, an enzyme usually produced by the small intestine. Lactase is responsible for breaking down lactose into glucose and galactose, which are simpler sugars that the body can easily absorb. When there is insufficient lactase, lactose remains undigested in the digestive system. This undigested lactose can lead to various symptoms, often causing discomfort for those with the condition.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance

A strong indicator that you may be suffering from lactose intolerance is the onset of specific symptoms within a few hours after consuming foods or drinks that contain lactose. These symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea

How lactose shows up in dairy products

It’s important to know that not all dairy products are created equal when it comes to lactose content. This is critical because the varying lactose content in dairy products might lead you to second-guess your symptoms, as not all dairy causes discomfort equally. 

Milk

Regular cow’s milk has the highest lactose content, typically ranging from 4-5%. The lactose level varies slightly between whole, skim, and low-fat milk, but all types can trigger symptoms in individuals with lactose intolerance.

Cheese

Cheese generally contains less lactose than milk. Hard, aged cheeses like Parmesan, Cheddar, and Swiss are especially low in lactose, often containing less than 1%. In contrast, soft cheeses such as Brie or Camembert have more lactose than hard cheeses but still less than milk.

Yoghurt

Yoghurt is often more tolerable for those with lactose intolerance because it contains live bacteria that aid in lactose digestion. The lactose content in yoghurt varies, with Greek yoghurt typically having less lactose due to its straining process, which removes some of the lactose.

Butter

Butter has very low lactose content, as it is primarily composed of fat with minimal milk solids. This makes it a more tolerable option for many people with lactose intolerance.

Ice cream and processed dairy

Ice cream, particularly high-quality varieties, often has added milk solids, which increase its lactose content. Processed dairy products can also contain varying levels of lactose.

What do you do if you suspect lactose intolerance?

If you suspect that you may be lactose intolerant, it’s essential to approach the situation with care. Self-diagnosing lactose intolerance is not advisable, as its symptoms can overlap with other digestive issues, which might require different treatment. Moreover, trying to navigate this condition alone can be overwhelming and confusing.

To eliminate any uncertainty, the most effective first step is to take a lactose intolerance test. This test can help determine whether lactose is the root cause of your discomfort or if another issue is at play. Recognising that lactose intolerance is a manageable condition with the proper knowledge and strategies is key. Understanding how different dairy products affect you and recognising the symptoms are crucial steps in managing this condition.

Once you have a clear diagnosis, you can adopt a comfortable, lactose-free lifestyle more confidently. There are numerous lactose-free or low-lactose alternatives available, allowing you to enjoy many of your favourite foods without discomfort.

Navigating lactose intolerance can seem daunting, but remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Don’t hesitate to take the following steps towards better health. Register as a new patient today, and let’s start the process of helping you feel better. You have the option to visit our London-based allergy clinic for a comprehensive evaluation by our specialists or take advantage of our home allergy test.

 

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