what does it mean to be lactose intolerant?
Intolerances are slowly coming into the spotlight. Even so, some intolerances, like sucrose and fructose, are still widely unknown.
However, there is one intolerance that has been the poster child of poor digestion for decades: lactose.
While the idea of having a “lactose intolerance” is common, though, what does it actually mean to have this condition? Let’s break down what an intolerance is and how a lactose intolerance presents a unique dietary challenge.
Before discussing the specifics of lactose, it’s important to understand what intolerances are in the first place.
The most important differentiating factor to make is that a food intolerance is not a food allergy. On the one hand, a food allergy is an allergic reaction by the body’s immune system. This can happen with even the smallest exposure to a food and it can be extremely dangerous.
On the other hand, a food intolerance is simply the inability of the body to properly break down and digest certain kinds of foods. This is because the body cannot produce enough of the right enzymes.
Food intolerances aren’t typically dangerous, but they can be very uncomfortable and come with a variety of unpleasant side effects. They can also manifest in different forms depending on the food causing the issue.
Case in point: an intolerance to lactose.
what is a lactose intolerance
Depending on your source, lactose is referred to as either a sugar or carbohydrate, and it’s found in milk, ice cream, cheese, and other milk products. An individual suffers from a lactose intolerance when their body cannot produce enough enzymes for their small intestines to break down lactose. This lack of digestive power is referred to as “lactose malabsorption.”
While many people have lactose malabsorption, that doesn’t automatically equate to a lactose intolerance. It’s only when the previous concern leads to symptoms, such as bloating and gas, that a person is considered to have an official lactose intolerance.
It’s estimated that more than two-thirds of the world’s population suffers from lactose malabsorption. However, it’s worth noting that this is heavily geographically dependent.
For instance, one study from Cornell University discovered that those whose ancestors lived in areas with harsh climates and dangerous diseases aren’t likely to be able to digest milk. This is because the regions where their families used to live couldn’t support dairy herding and over time, cultural proclivities led to local inhabitants losing the ability to digest milk.
In the U.S., where much of the population has roots in dairy-friendly Europe, it’s thought that just 36% of the population has lactose malabsorption. If you zoom into the American sphere of influence, though, specific differentiating factors appear. For example, the African American, American Indian, Hispanic, and Asian American populations are much more at risk of the intolerance.
When it comes to actual lactose intolerances, the number of people affected is much smaller than those with lactose malabsorption. Some estimate that 12% of Americans have a lactose intolerance. Others put the number higher, suggesting that as many as 50 million Americans (a little over 15%) have the condition.
how can intoleran help?
While it’s difficult to say exactly how many people have a lactose intolerance, there’s no doubt that it is a common condition. For anyone who has or thinks they have a sensitivity to lactose, Intoleran has a solution.
Our Lactase product line helps individuals boost the number of enzymes their bodies need to properly digest lactose. There are multiple applications, including pills, tablets, and drops. They are also offered in formats that can be taken with individual meals and snacks or once a day.
The enzymes are also harmless and any that are unused pass through the digestive system without trouble. This makes the supplements a great diagnostic tool for those who aren’t sure if lactose is the root of their digestive issues.
The goal with our Lactase products is simple. We want to enable those who cannot fully digest lactose to be able to enjoy life again. No matter what your family history or current health might be, we’re offering a way for individuals to enjoy life again — even if they have a lactose intolerance.