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What is Lactose Intolerance?

What is Lactose Intolerance?

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Advisory by Yip Suting, Guardian Pharmacist

What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is a condition where your body cannot easily digest lactose, a type of simple sugar found in milk and dairy products. It is a result of the body not producing enough lactase, which is an enzyme that is needed to digest the sugar.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
The undigested lactose will be broken down by bacteria to produce various gases that result in stomach bloating, cramps, flatulence and diarrhoea.

Is lactose intolerance the same as milk allergy?
They are different. While lactose intolerance results from the deficiency of lactase to digest lactose, milk allergy is caused by an over-reaction of your body's immune system to the proteins that are present in milk.

How should lactose intolerance be managed?
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may have to avoid dairy products or minimize your daily dairy intake. Instead of milk, products such as yoghurt, cheese or ice-cream may be better tolerated as the amount of lactose they contain is typically lower compared to milk in its original form. When all these dietary changes fail to minimize the symptoms, digestive supplements containing lactase may be used just before any intake of dairy products.

What are the health implications of suffering from lactose intolerance?
As dairy products are often the main source of calcium for many people, a person who cannot tolerate any dairy products may need to get their calcium from other non-dairy products such as seafood (e.g. anchovies, sardines, salmon), green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, broccoli, lettuce), nuts (e.g. almond, brazil nuts) or beans (e.g. soy beans).

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