When someone suffers from gas, bloating, cramps and diarrhea on a fairly regular basis, it can be very frustrating to figure out what is going on!
It can be a guessing game with test after test. Is there a food allergy? A disease like Crohn's or colitis? IBS? Diverticulitis? Gluten sensitivity or Celiac?
Those are all valid possibilities...but for more than 50 million Americans the guilty culprit lies in milk and milk products.
Otherwise known as lactose intolerance.
Here's the scoop on this relatively common condition that millions suffer from, but many of them don't even know it.
What's going on down there?
People who have lactose intolerance lack the necessary enzyme (known as lactase) in their small intestine to digest lactose--which is the sugar in milk and products made with milk (such as ice cream, yogurt, butter, cream, sherbet, etc.).
The causes of low lactase in your small intestine can include the following:
- In some people, lactase production in the small intestine starts to decline after the toddler years
- Infection, disease, or other issues that can affect your small intestinal functioning
- Being born early sometimes causes babies to be lactose intolerant for a short time
- In a rare form of lactose intolerance, the small intestine produces little or no lactase enzyme from birth.
- Certain ethnic groups are more prone to lactose intolerance, including those of Asian and African descent, as well as Native Americans.
Many times lactose intolerant people can’t digest other sugars as well, such as the sugar in fruit (a condition called fructose intolerance).
When lactose intolerant people ingest milk products, the sugar molecules are not broken down small enough like they need to be in order to pass through the gut wall and into the bloodstream for nourishment.
So instead these "too-big sugar chunks" pass to the colon where they sit...and sit...and begin to ferment.
This leads to the familiar gas, bloating and abdominal pain.
While this is happening, your body senses something is awry and sounds an alarm to "Get these bubbling sugar chunks out of me!"
That's the precise moment at which you may be flying to the bathroom with diarrhea.
But wait! There's more
When this happens day in and day out, gas and diarrhea are just the tip of the iceberg.
Because this ongoing poor digestion-fermentation cycle can keep your digestive system in a stressed, weakened state. That can eventually cause your body to have trouble absorbing other nutrients too.
Plus the fermented sugar molecules in your intestinal tract are the ideal food for dangerous bacteria, so you can be opening the door for dysbiosis (harmful bacteria overgrowth) and possibly leaky gut.
Ignorance is not bliss
Recent studies have shown that as many as seven out of 10 people who are lactose intolerant don't even know it!
And those that DO know or suspect they have a problem with lactose dutifully try to avoid it...
But the problem is, lactose is hidden in MANY other foods besides dairy products!
Here is just a partial list of non-dairy "lactose hiding places":
- Dry (powdered) milk
- Evaporated milk
- Sweetened condensed milk
- Non-dairy creamers
- Goat's milk
- Artificial sweeteners
- Breads, biscuits, cookies or donuts made with milk or milk solids
- Fried foods (the breading may have milk in it)
- Cake mixes
- Milk chocolate
- Luncheon meats
- Gravies; sauces
- Breakfast cereals (certain ones have dry milk powder on the grains)
- Weight loss drugs
Plus here are some “aliases” for lactose you’ll see on food labels:
- Whey protein
- Milk by-products
- Nonfat dry milk
- Dry milk solids
- Milk derivatives
How to tell if lactose is not your friend
The good news is there is a relatively simple, inexpensive yet accurate test that you can request to see if lactose intolerance is an issue for you.
It's called a "Lactose Intolerance Breath Test" or "Hydrogen Breath Test" and it's non-invasive and typically very well-tolerated by most people.
Your doctor can also do a blood test or stool test to assess lactose intolerance.
Now if you want to try a little self-assessment, avoid lactose for two weeks and see how you feel. If your symptoms disappear, you’ll have your answer. But still do see your doctor to rule out a true milk allergy (which can be life-threatening), or any other issues going on.
Where do I go from here?
If you know or strongly suspect lactose intolerance is a concern for you, step 1 is obviously AVOIDANCE.
This means you need to become a careful label-reader--look again at the list of lactose-containing foods and aliases above.
Watch out for homemade dishes or bakery foods that don't have a label for you to read, but might very likely contain lactose. Be especially careful of anything with frostings, gravies and sauces.
Once you've successfully eliminated lactose from your diet, it's important to help rebuild and repair the damage to your intestinal tract that may have been caused by a long history of the fermentation-diarrhea cycle I described above.
Here are two every effective ways you can help ease the burden on your intestinal tract and encourage healing:
1- Digestive enzymes
Digestive enzyme supplements can help give your body an enzyme boost and help ensure that all of your foods are properly broken down like they should be.
Not only can this help ease an inflamed intestinal tract, but it will also help support nutrient absorption which may have previously been a problem for you.
In addition, digestive enzymes can be a huge help during those instances where you might accidentally or unknowingly ingest lactose!
If that sounds good to you, then Digestizol Max can be your ticket for enzyme help.
Digestizol Max contains a blend of 14 plant-derived enzymes which includes amylases (to break down carbs), proteases (that break down proteins), lipases (for fats) and... LACTASE for breaking down lactose!
2- Probiotic supplementation
A long history of suffering with lactose intolerance means a greater likelihood of serious harmful bacteria overgrowth in your gut and/or possibly leaky gut.
To help counteract that and encourage a stronger gut wall and immune system, it's crucial to have a healthy diet of REAL (not processed) foods and supplement with a good, multi-strain probiotic formula like Super Shield.
Super Shield contains 13 strains of high-quality probiotic bacteria, each having their own unique "specialty" in how they help strengthen your gut and enhance your health.
Lactose intolerance affects millions of people and that may include YOU.
So be sure to take the necessary steps to get diagnosed and avoid lactose, plus give your body the help it needs to rebound from the effects if you’ve got an intolerance.
I’m sure it won’t be long before you see a difference in how you feel!
PS: Always be sure to let your doctor or healthcare provider know what supplements you are taking.