Can You Become Lactose Intolerant?

Currently, over 50 percent of the population in the world is lactose intolerant. This is what happens when your lower intestine doesn't create enough lactase (and enzyme) to help process and digest the milk sugars which are called lactose. This intolerance may develop at any point in time from infancy to your golden years. It is often very challenging to diagnose as the symptoms often mimic symptoms of other conditions, including IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms may include diarrhea, bloating, nausea, abdominal cramping and gas.

What Causes Lactose Intolerance?

 When a person’s body doesn't digest lactose then he’s lactose intolerant. It can be caused when the body fails to produce enough lactase which is what breaks lactose down into glucose and galactose. Once the lactose is broken down the body quickly absorbs it into the blood stream. If a person isn't producing enough lactose, they are considered to be lactose intolerant. There are many reasons that a person might not produce enough lactose. It could be a temporary condition or it may be permanent. When considering can you become lactose intolerant it's important to note that it may be inherited or it may be something that is temporary such as an infection in your digestive system. In which case, it may only be a short term condition.

Who Gets It?

Lactose intolerance appears to affect both genders equally. Certain ethnic groups tend to be more likely to become lactose intolerant than others. Children are least likely to have issues with lactose. However, many children become lactose intolerant as they edge into adulthood. Many of these children started displaying symptoms in their early teens without realizing it.

Can You Become Lactose Intolerant Later in Life?

The answer is yes.

As lactose moves through the colon it may cause symptoms including pain in the abdomen, gas, bloating and other uncomfortable symptoms. For some people, just a swallow of milk may cause these symptoms, for others, it may be an entire glass of milk before they notice any symptoms. Typically, the condition is genetic and will run in the family. However, it's not unusual or unheard of to suddenly develop it when no one in the family has ever had it before. A lot of cases are first discovered between the ages of 20 to 40. However, many young infants and even young children may suddenly develop the condition as well. People who have no problems with milk can also suddenly become lactose intolerant, especially when one gets older.

What Should You Do in the Meantime?

If you suspect that lactose is causing you issues, track what you're eating on a daily basis for a few days and see if you notice a pattern. Are your symptoms occurring shortly after ingesting dairy products? If so, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you're not having any issues after eating dairy, you likely don't have a severe issue with lactose. Be sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor. Take your log of what you've been eating and your symptoms with you when you visit your doctor so that you can discuss it in detail. Your doctor will want to know your symptoms in detail such as are you having abdominal cramps or diarrhea?

How to Check If It’s Lactose Intolerance

Before you stop drinking your milk, make sure that it's not another digestive issue such as irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease. It may even be inflammatory bowel disease. To check this, you can stop consuming all dairy products and see if your symptoms go away. If the symptoms go away, slowly reintroduce them to your system. Start by adding in a small amount of milk to see if they reappear. If they do re appear after one drink of milk, you may wish to be checked. If they reappear in force after drinking milk and having ice cream or yogurt, you should definitely be checked. It may be very complicated to fully determine on your own, this is where your doctor can help you.

Your doctor may order a test to determine your condition. He may order a hydrogen breath test or he may opt for a blood sugar test. These can help to determine if your body is properly digesting lactose.

What to Do About Lactose Intolerance

Can you become lactose intolerant? We already know the answer is yes and if unfortunately you’re now lactose intolerant, you will have to learn to avoid milk, and milk products. That is the only treatment that is available. You may opt to use soy milk and soy cheeses in lieu of milk products. There are many alternatives to milk out there. There are also supplements that you can take that will help to process the lactose in your body. Most people learn what foods to avoid and what they may eat without worry in a very short time.

You'll need to learn what to eat to replace the calcium that your body needs, especially if you're working with a child or teen who is lactose intolerant. This is also true for women who are pregnant or in menopause. Here are a few non-dairy foods that have calcium in them:

  • Turnip greens, broccoli, kale, okra and collards
  • Canned tuna, salmon and sardines
  • Juices and cereals that are calcium fortified
  • Soy products including milks and tofu and soybeans that are fortified
  • Almonds

Lactose will be on the labels of foods such as your prepackaged foods as well as salad dressings, luncheon meats, cereals, coffee creamers and the like. It may be listed as “dry milk, milk products, milk solids, whey” and the like. You should avoid foods of such.

How to Deal with Lactose Intolerance:

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