Lactose Intolerance in a Nutshell

Do you often feel bloated, gassy or have an upset stomach after drinking milk or eating dairy products? You may have a common condition called lactose intolerance.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Being lactose intolerant means you don’t make enough of a certain enzyme that helps your body break down sugar in milk. The sugar ends up in your colon (rather than being absorbed into your bloodstream) where it ferments and causes discomforting symptoms and digestive problems.

Global view

75% of the world’s adult population is thought to be lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance can start suddenly, even if you’ve never had trouble with milk or dairy products before. Lactose intolerance has many types, it can also occur congenitally which means its present at birth. Therefore, it is important to find an adequate alternative to dairy products if your child suffers from Lactose Intolerance. As simply avoiding dairy products can have many harmful effects on a child. This is because children need the calcium and vitamins in dairy milk during their growing years, if they do not get it, they may suffer from diseases like Ricketts and malnutrition.

Can Babies Be Lactose Intolerant?

When babies are born, their digestive tracts are equipped with lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose in their mothers’ milk. However, the digestive system’s lactase levels diminish over time, resulting in lactose intolerance. The condition typically only starts showing up after age three in children who were born full-term.

Lactose Intolerance Symptoms

The symptoms depend on the amount of lactose that’s consumed. The more lactose you consume, the more symptoms you will experience. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can occur within minutes to hours after drinking milk or eating dairy products and can range from mild to severe.

Here are some common symptoms:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

Lactose Intolerance vs Milk Allergy

Is it the same thing as a milk allergy? While the two may share similar symptoms, they are entirely different conditions. Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem, while milk allergy involves the immune system acting as though anything made from milk is a threat to your body. Milk allergies tend to appear within the first year of life, while an infant’s digestive system is still quite immature. Lactose intolerance can start in childhood into adolescence and can become more noticeable into adulthood.

A Delicious Dairy Alternative

There is no cure for lactose intolerance, but there are lots of ways to live well with it and still enjoy delicious foods. Because it is not derived from the milk of animals, coconut milk is free of lactose and a perfect choice for people pursuing a lactose-free diet.

Choosing coconut milk over dairy for meals, sauces and desserts is a surefire way to avoid lactose-intolerance repercussions as well as enjoy a lovely rich taste along with nutrients and fibre.

Try coconut milk in creamed spinach or other creamed vegetables, or as part of a breading for fried chicken or fried coconut shrimp. Coconut milk is popular in Asian dishes, including curries and noodle dishes. It’s also well-known for its role in pina coladas and other tropical drinks. You can also buy or make your own dairy-free, coconut milk ice cream.

Read “5 Brilliant Uses of Coconut Milk with Food” blog post for more great ideas on how to use this versatile milk in your kitchen.

About Me

Ramona Harms, Founder and CEO of Coconathi (Pty) Ltd. A company born out of love and compassion on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast of South Africa. Our goal is to promote health, to educate and to empower.

7 thoughts on “Lactose Intolerance in a Nutshell”

  1. I lived on a farm for a short period of time and to be honest, it kinda grossed me out of having dairy products. I do believe dairy is for animal babies not for human consumption. Plant-based options are healthier, super affordable and safe for the environment, it’s a no brainer.

    PS: Your Golden Milk is an absolute fave of mine!

  2. It took me a while until I figured out what was bloating me. I have been following a vegetarian diet for most of my adult life and I always blamed chickpea for my awful bloating since everyone kept pointing the finger at beans. Nope, it turned out I have lactose intolerance so I had to switch to dairy free milk.

  3. This really got me thinking… I never thought I could have lactose intolerance since the symptoms I’m having are not that bad but this might explain the sudden bloating and occasional acne bursts.

  4. Ramona, can you recommend a test for picking up on this? Or should I stick to cutting down on all dairy products for two, three weeks and see if I get some results? I train daily and the cramps are insane, it’s very uncomfortable.

    • best thing to do is eliminate all dairy for a few weeks before making an substitutions and you will definitely see the results and then you can make the gradual change over to plant-based milks.

  5. I only resort to cow’s milk when I’m having my morning coffee otherwise I have very painful stomach cramps. I had no idea so many people are in the same boat, why is the dairy industry still pushing these products?!

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