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Levels Of Lactose In Various Dairy Products

Lactose intolerance is a common condition in our society, but many people never link their digestive disturbances with the consumption of dairy products. Lactose intolerance is especially common among Asian, South American, and African persons. It is least prevalent among people with a northern European heritage. In the United States alone, there are approximately 50 million people who are lactose intolerant.

Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest and absorb lactose resulting in gastrointestinal symptoms when milk or products containing milk are consumed. Lactose is a larger sugar that is made up of two smaller sugars, glucose and galactose. Lactose intolerance is caused by reduced or absent activity of lactase that prevents the splitting of lactose. Lactose intolerance is not lethal and morbidity is low, although osteopenia can be a complication of this disorder.

Common symptoms of lactose intolerance include loose stools, abdominal bloating and pain, flatulence, nausea, and borborygmi. Symptoms may or may not occur in the digestive system. Symptoms tend to develop 30 minutes to two hours after consuming milk or dairy products and are usually mild, but may sometimes be severe. Symptoms of lactose intolerance are often confused with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Dietary control of lactose intolerance depends on each person's learning through trial and error how much lactose he or she can handle. Some people can tolerate a reasonable amount of lactose, while others can tolerate none at all. Many individuals with lactose intolerance can digest the amount of lactose found in 1/2 cup of milk, but more is asking for trouble.

People who have trouble digesting lactose can learn which dairy products and other foods they can eat without discomfort and which ones they should avoid. Lactose-reduced milk and other products are available at many supermarkets. Smart shoppers learn to read food labels with care, looking not only for milk and lactose among the contents but also for such words as whey, curds, milk by-products, dry milk solids, and nonfat dry milk powder.

Regardless, people with lactose intolerance should follow the same basic strategies to build and maintain healthy bones, and pay extra attention to getting enough calcium. A diagnosis or even the suggestion of lactose intolerance leads many people to avoid milk and/or consume specially prepared food with digestive aids. However, milk is the primary source of calcium and calcium is necessary for good health and strong bones. It is also pivotal in preventing osteoporosis, a major health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans, 68 percent of whom are women.

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