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Q: What is lactose intolerance?

Posted August 14, 2013 in Advice Column, Grimes

A: Lactose intolerance is when the body does not produce enough lactase enzymes in the small intestine. This makes it more difficult to digest lactose-containing foods. Some examples of food that may cause gas, bloating and diarrhea for people who are lactose intolerant include milk, cheese, ice cream and most dairy products.

If you are lactose intolerant, it does not mean that you have to avoid all dairy products. You can still enjoy them, but in smaller quantities, and by choosing your food sources more wisely. (It can vary from person to person depending how much lactase enzymes your small intestine produces). Some good alternatives for regular milk are Lactaid milk (this milk contains lactase enzymes to help break down lactose), almond milk and soy milk. Some dairy products that are acceptable for lactose intolerant people are Greek yogurt, aged cheeses and low-fat dairy products in small amounts.

Lactaid is an over-the-counter product that may be used to help enjoy dairy products without suffering the effects of lactose intolerance (gas, bloating and diarrhea). It contains the lactase enzymes that lactose intolerant people may lack. It is available as a chewable tablet or caplet that should be taken at the start of eating any dairy products.

Keeping a food diary is recommended. The food diary would include what kind of food you ate, the quantity of that food and the symptoms of lactose intolerance experienced that day, if any. This will help you find out what amount and type of dairy products your body can handle.

Answer provided by Hy-Vee Drugstore, 1541 S.E. Third St., Suite 100, 986-4527.

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