Do you think you are lactose intolerant? What this means for your future diet.

Do you have a stomach ache after eating a scoop of ice cream? You might be lactose intolerant.

People with lactose intolerance are unable to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. The good news: If you think you might be lactose intolerant, you’re not alone. According to Boston Children’s Hospital, 30 to 50 million Americans suffer from this disease. The bad news: You may need to change your eating habits.

If you think you may be lactose intolerant, here’s exactly what that means for your future.

What is lactose intolerance?

People develop lactose intolerance when their bodies don’t produce enough lactase enzyme for the amount of dairy they eat, says Dr. Christopher Schmoyer, assistant professor of gastroenterology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Texas. Pennsylvania.

You need lactase to break down the sugar lactose into its two smaller, digestible components. But our bodies tend to produce less of this enzyme as we age. This causes sugar to build up in our gastrointestinal tract and leads to uncomfortable symptoms.

Typical symptoms associated with lactose intolerance include gas, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In more severe cases, people may experience nausea and vomiting.

Is it OK to be lactose intolerant?

It’s completely normal to be lactose intolerant as an adult, says Schmoyer. “Our bodies are really only meant to drink milk and digest it when we are babies. It’s when we are young and during the first two years of life that our body produces this lactase enzyme at the highest levels,” he explains. “So it’s normal that over time our body’s ability to make this enzyme decreases.” The ability to digest lactose as an adult is actually the result of genetic mutations that occurred thousands of years ago.

What foods to avoid if you are lactose intolerant

If you have age-related lactose intolerance, you may want to change your eating habits. To avoid negative symptoms, avoid foods high in lactose. Examples include many dairy products and even some prepared foods, according to Healthline.

What triggers your symptoms may be different from someone else’s. You may be able to consume lactose, says Amy Reed, a dietitian at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Try different brands of dairy products, dairy products, and amounts of dairy products to determine what your threshold is. There are also solutions you can try. Look for lactose-free milk and dairy products as well as enzyme supplements, like Lactaid, which help you digest lactose.

Although age-related lactose intolerance is essentially permanent, there are options for you. So grab that bowl of ice cream (and an enzyme supplement). You deserve a treat.

How is almond milk made? It’s surprisingly simple.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: What is lactose intolerance? Plus foods to avoid triggering it

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