While many types of food intolerance may or may not be accepted by the conventional medical community, lactose intolerance is. This well-documented condition usually occurs when the individual has difficulty to digest dairy due to a lack of enzymes to break down the lactose sugar in milk.
Often sufferers can consume dairy products again when they take a digestive enzyme tablet containing lactase – this replaces the enzyme that they are missing.
In some cases, people are sensitive enough to lactose that they choose an avoidance diet. Medical professionals will counsel you to ensure that you are still getting enough calcium if you choose to avoid dairy, as dairy products are one of the primary sources of this mineral in the modern human diet.
What is the alternative?
Another dietary option is lactose-free milk and dairy products, which are now easier to find. Sometimes, this substitution can allow people to return dairy products to their diets.
While lactose is not a life-threatening condition, it can be extremely challenging to manage, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Symptoms of this condition include diarrhea (which is actually the most common symptom), nausea, abdominal cramping, bloating and gas.
Unfortunately, in the same way that allergies can be difficult to diagnose, lactose intolerance can also be difficult to diagnose because it can mimic other conditions such as common stomach flu bugs, and even irritable bowel syndrome.
Parents need to keep in mind that children with gastrointestinal symptoms may appear to be lactose intolerant but could instead be allergic to milk protein.
Like allergies, lactose intolerance does tend to run in families. Symptoms usually develop in the teens or young adulthood. It is more rare in infants and young children. However, it also occurs more frequently in certain racial and ethnic groups: lactose intolerance is more common with Native Americans (from both North and South) as well as people from Asia and Africa.