You used to be able to take dairy products, but not now. What gives? By Li Yuling
Milk contains lactose, a sugar that many people are unable to digest. Photo: 123rf.com/emperio
First up: Do you really have lactose intolerance? Signs and symptoms include diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal cramps, gas, bloating, and sometimes even vomiting. They typically begin 30 minutes to two hours after consuming dairy products or food and drinks that contain lactose. Lactose is a sugar present in milk.
Unfortunately lactose intolerance can arise as we age due to a loss of lactase in our body, says Dr Gwee Kok Ann, medical director and consultant gastroenterologist from Stomach Liver and Bowel Clinic. Lactase is an enzyme essenial for the digestion of lactose.
Interestingly, lactose intolerance in adulthood is most prevalent in people of East Asian descent – that’s us! Lactose intolerance affects more than 90 per cent of adults in these communities, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
However, not everyone who is lactase deficient will be intolerant to lactose, adds Dr Gwee. Other factors that contribute to lactose intolerance include recent intestinal infections (for instance, food poisoning), irritable bowel syndrome, treatment with antibiotics, and even anxiety. (That’s why you should avoid dairy before an important meeting or interview.)
Some forms of dairy, such as full cream milk and ice cream, are also better tolerated, says Dr Gwee.
The good news is lactose tolerance can be built up too. Read more here.