What is lactose?
Lactose is a sugar found in most dairy products and is a concern for people with lactose-intolerance.
What is lactose-intolerance?
Lactose-intolerance means the body has trouble dealing with lactose. Like any other sugar, lactose needs to be broken down to be absorbed by cells in the body. People who are lactose-intolerant do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking down lactose. Undigested lactose passes through to the intestines where it is fermented by gut bacteria, causing symptoms such as bloating, gas, and stomach pain.
Lactose-intolerance is a fairly common condition affecting about 1 in 6 Canadians. It is important to note that lactose-intolerance is very different than a milk allergy. The key difference is that a milk allergy, is a potentially life threatening immune system response to a protein in milk, while lactose-intolerance is the inability to digest the milk sugar lactose.
Lactose-free vs. Dairy-Free
A common misconception is that dairy-free and lactose-free are the same thing. This is not the case. Since there are varying amounts of lactose in dairy products, a lactose-free diet can include dairy products if they have little to no lactose. However, a dairy-free diet excludes all dairy products, regardless of lactose-content.
How do I know if I am lactose-intolerant?
Since lactose-intolerance is caused by the body’s inability to produce enough of the enzyme lactase, some people may produce more lactase than others. Therefore, symptoms and tolerance to lactose may differ between individuals.
If you think you may be lactose-intolerant, note any symptoms such as bloating, gas, or changes in bowel movements after consuming dairy products. More symptoms and information about lactose-intolerance can be found here.
If you notice symptoms, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor or consult a dietitian. A dietitian can be found near you or can be reached for free by calling 811. If you live in UBC residence you can contact a residence dietitian here.
If you enjoyed reading this article, check out the next post in the lactose series here for some great tips to a healthy and happy lactose-free diet!
Q – Do all dairy products contain lactose?
No! Some diary products contain little to no lactose at all. Check out the next post to see.
Q – Is it a lot more expensive to go lactose-free?
Luckily, no. There are many great-tasting options to replace dairy in a healthy and nutritious way that doesn’t have to break the bank!
Q – Are all plant-based milks the same?