All your lactose intolerance questions have finally been answered! 2 years ago

All your lactose intolerance questions have finally been answered!

Brought to you by Avonmore Lactose Free milk.

We recently asked all our readers to send in their most pressing questions about lactose intolerance, and how to manage it – and we certainly got lots of really interesting questions to choose from.

As a reminder, lactose intolerance is a person’s inability to digest lactose, the natural sugar found in milk.  Lactose intolerance can lead to some unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, wind, nausea and diarrhoea.

Avonmore Lactose Free is ideal for anyone who enjoys milk but who wants to avoid any not-so-pleasant symptoms lactose may have on their bodies.

With so much mis-information out there, being in the know, and receiving the right kind of information is key, so we put your most common questions to a nutritionist and here’s what she had to say:

1. What is the difference between lactose intolerance and dairy intolerance - are they the same?

Dairy intolerance is sometimes used mistakenly to cover any intolerance or allergy associated with the consumption of milk or dairy. However, intolerances and allergies are two very different things so it’s important to know the difference.  A dairy allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to the protein found in cow’s milk and can result in a serious allergic reaction, in which case, you should avoid all dairy. An intolerance to milk or dairy is a reaction to lactose, the natural sugar found in milk, and results in less serious symptoms such as bloating, wind and cramps. In this case you do not need to avoid dairy completely, you may just need to limit the amount of lactose you consume.

2. Can lactose intolerance develop at any stage in life, or only when you’re younger?

Lactose intolerance can occur at any age.  Primary lactose intolerance develops when your lactase production decreases as the diet becomes less reliant on milk and dairy. This is usually after the age of two, although the symptoms may not be noticeable until adulthood. It is particularly common in Asian and African populations but also affects approx. 5-10% of the Irish population.  Secondary lactose intolerance is a shortage of lactase caused by a problem in your small intestine. It can occur at any age, is often temporary and can improve within a few days or weeks once the gut heals.

3. Can you have more of a sensitivity or intolerance to certain dairy products over others?

Yes this is possible. Some dairy foods contain less lactose than others so are easier to digest, and people who are lactose intolerant vary in how much lactose they can tolerate.  So, for example some people may have difficulty digesting a full glass of milk on its own, but drinking milk with food may be fine. Most lactose intolerant people can also tolerate small amounts of hard cheese and yoghurt as some of the lactose has been broken down in the production of these products.

4. What other sources of calcium are there for me if yoghurt and cheese are off-limits?

Most people who are lactose intolerant can tolerate small amounts of lactose daily, so cheese and yoghurt may not be completely off-limits.  These products are easier for most lactose intolerant people to digest as they have lower levels of lactose.  Lactose Free milk is another great option as it still contains all the calcium you would get from regular cow’s milk but without resulting in unpleasant symptoms. You can get calcium in other foods such as fish with soft bones, like sardines or salmon, and green vegetables, but you would have to eat approx. 16 servings of broccoli per day to get the calcium you need, in comparison to only three servings of milk, so it’s important not to cut out dairy unnecessarily.

5. Do you add anything to your lactose free milk to make it taste so similar to regular milk?

Avonmore Lactose Free tastes just like regular milk because it is made with regular cow’s milk. All we do is add the enzyme ‘lactase’ which helps to break down the lactose in the milk, making it easier to digest. We also fortify the milk with vitamin D to help your body absorb the calcium.

6. I think I might be lactose intolerant. What tests can I get done to find out or should I visit my doctor to get it confirmed?

It's very important to visit your GP if you think you might be lactose intolerant, as the symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions. Before seeing your GP, keep a diary of what you eat and drink, and any symptoms you experience. Your GP may suggest trying to remove lactose from your diet for a number of weeks to see if it helps to relieve your symptoms. They may use other tests to confirm the diagnosis such as a hydrogen breath test.

7. I’ve heard that cutting out dairy from your diet can be good for your skin, especially if you’re prone to acne. Would lactose free milk have a similar effect?

Scientific studies have looked into the effect of diet on acne, but did not find any links between what people eat and the likelihood that they will develop acne.  Excluding milk and dairy foods from the diet unnecessarily would compromise intakes of vital nutrients such as calcium and protein. You could try drinking lactose free milk and see how you get on as it contains the same nutritional benefits as regular cow’s milk.

If you love milk but are lactose intolerant, here’s some very good news: Avonmore Lactose Free milk has all the taste and nutritional benefits you would expect from Avonmore, just without the lactose.

YES YOU CAN, with Avonmore Lactose Free milk

Please visit your GP for an expert diagnosis, if you think you or your child might be lactose intolerant.