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Lactose Intolerance Essay

The topic I chose to research was lactose intolerance. Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk. Lactose is made by joining a molecule of glucose with one of galactose (Willett 101). We are born with the enzyme lactase, which digests and breaks down the lactose. Some people do not digest lactose well due to a lack of lactase or their body may make lactase that does not work properly. Not all people with a lactase deficiency have digestive symptoms, but those who do have lactose intolerance. The symptoms of lactose intolerance are not severe.

The severity of the symptoms varies from person to person and how much of the food you have consumed. The symptoms also depend on the amount of lactose consumed (what food you ate or drank) and what other foods you consumed throughout the day. Your body usually reacts within thirty minute to two hours after consuming the food. You get symptoms because when “lactase can no longer break down lactose, it passes intact through the intestine until it reaches the colon, where it is finally fermented by the bacteria that reside there.

As the bacteria do their job, they produce gas as a byproduct”, which causes discomfort and pain as well as bloating, cramping, nausea, stomachaches, gas, loose stool, and diarrhea (“Lactose Free Diet”). The symptoms are not terrible, but they can make a person very uncomfortable and might as well be prevented. Lactose intolerance can sometimes be mistaken as a milk allergy. However, they are not the same; being allergic to milk is more serious. A milk allergy is a reaction by the body’s immune system to one or more milk proteins and can be life threatening when just a small amount of milk or milk product is consumed.

Milk allergy most commonly appears in the first year of life and typically fades after childhood (“Lactose Intolerance”). The symptoms include blood in their stool and abdominal pain. Lactose intolerance affects many people; between 30-50 million Americans have a lactase deficiency and cannot completely digest the milk sugar known as lactose.

Thirty of the fifty million Americans are diagnosed by age 20. Lactose intolerance was thought to mainly affect people from Asia and Africa, but new evidence suggest that most people develop it as they get lder and most of the world’s population can not fully digest lactose! Infants who are born prematurely are likely to lactase deficiency because an infant’s lactase levels do not increase until the third trimester of pregnancy (“Lactose Intolerance”). People from northern Europe and parts of Africa have been shown to have a mutation that allows them to continue to break down lactose into adulthood (Wang). As we get older, many people produce less of the enzyme lactase.

The lactose can no longer be properly digested and remains in the intestine encouraging the growth of bacterial colonies (Howard and Matus). There are three different types of lactose intolerance. The first type has to do with when you are a baby your body produces large amounts of lactase because milk is your primary source of nutrition. Usually your lactase production decreases as your diet becomes more varied and less reliant on milk. This gradual decline may lead to symptoms of lactose intolerance. The second type of lactose intolerance is the result of illness or injury.

It occurs when your small intestine decreases lactase production after an illness, surgery, or injury to your small intestine. And the third type is a condition you are born with. It is rare, but some babies are born with the absence of lactase activity. And are therefore cannot have their mothers milk and have to have lactose-free infant formula. This disorder is passed on from generation to generation (“Lactose Intolerance”). Luckily, people who suffer from lactose intolerance can still consume milk and dairy products. Soy milk is the most popular milk substitute.

Other substitutes are hemp, rice, almond, and coconut milk. Hemp milk is made from the hemp nut and is a relatively new milk alternative, so it may be harder to find in stores. Coconut milk has been around forever, but has just recently begun to be marketed as a cow’s milk alternative (Ted). There is also a brand called Lactaid, which is a line of dairy products geared for people who are sensitivity to dairy. This line of products is one of the U. S. Agriculture Research Service top fifteen accomplishments in the last fifty years (Willett 166).

They have regular or calcium enriched milk available in fat free, low fat, reduced fat, or whole milk. The also have chocolate milk, eggnog, cottage cheese, and ice cream. These products are real diary, but they have the lactase enzyme added to them (Lactaid). This line of products is more expensive than the average milk brand, but it is convenient for people with lactose intolerance because instead of taking an enzyme supplement, the product already has it in it. People that are lactose intolerance have to be aware of foods that are high and low in lactose.

Lactose is added to foods, to prolong their shelf life. Foods that are high in lactose include cream, sour cream, butter cream, evaporated milk, pudding, custard, cream sauces, cream soups, milkshakes, ice cream, coffee creamer, and foods made with milk. Foods that have less lactose include cereal, butter, cottage cheese, cream cheese, bread, swiss and cheddar cheese, salad dressings, protein bars, processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, instant potatoes, soups, and breakfast drinks, potato chips, corn chips, and other processed snacks.

In general, foods that have gone through some processing such as cheese and ice cream tend to have less lactose because of the fermentation process breaks some of it down. Other foods that have small amounts of lactose in them are peas, lima beans, waffles, pancakes, biscuits, cookies, candies, non-dairy whipped toppings, and non-dairy liquid and powdered coffee creamers (“Lactose Intolerance”).

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