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Lactose Intolerance
When Milk Doesn't Do A Body Good

Drink Mlk?
Drink Milk?

Exercise takes a lot out of a body. To rebuild muscles that have been worn down after a workout, it's important to get enough protein in your diet. One of the cheapest and easiest ways to get that protein is by drinking a tall glass of fat-free milk.

There's just one problem. Up to 70% of the world may be unable to eat or drink dairy products without bloating, diarrhea, gas, nausea or stomach cramps. It's a condition known as lactose intolerance.

Most newborn babies and infants have no trouble properly digesting milk. They're born with an intestinal enzyme called lactase. The job of lactase is to break down and digest LACTOSE, the principal sugar found in milk.

The problem starts as we age. Over time most people will stop producing the lactase enzyme and their ability to easily digest milk or milk products. Estimates vary widely, but it's believed around 20% of Caucasians become lactose intolerant by adulthood, 50% of Hispanics, 75% of those of African descent, 80% of Native Americans and a whopping 90% of people of Asian descent. But age isn't the only trigger.

People who have irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn's disease or other problems with the digestive tract may also have difficulty digesting lactose. Even a simple infection or some medications like antibiotics can trigger temporary lactose intolerance.

Unfortunately, cutting dairy products out of a diet that has relied heavily on them, can lead to muscle loss, weaker bones and calcium loss. Researchers at Tuft's University for the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging stated that, "Adult-onset lactase decline appears to be a risk factor for developing osteoporosis, owing to avoidance of dairy products or interference of undigested lactose with calcium absorption."

If you've given up on dairy, there may be some good news, but first a few things you should know. There is no cure for lactose intolerance, but there are ways to control the symptoms.

Cheese is OK if you know what to look for. Avoid the freshest ones like cottage or ricotta because they have the most lactose. The longer a cheese is aged, the less lactose it contains. The safest bets are hard yellow cheeses; many of them have almost no lactose at all.

Buy lactose-free milk. It tastes just like regular milk and cooks up the same in recipes. In fact, nearly every recipe that calls for milk on WeBeFit.com is made with lactose-free, fat-free milk.

Add a little lower sugar yogurt to your diet. You get the calcium and protein plus yogurt contains a lactase that helps digest lactose in the intestine.

Start reading labels. If you see "sweet whey powder" or "whey powder" on the list of ingredients, you should be aware the product generally has a lot of lactose. Pop a couple of lactase enzyme supplements (like Lactaid) right before you eat. Several clinical trials now show they help increase lactose digestion without side effects. Take one before you have something with dairy and the nutrients will go to your muscles instead of winding up flushed down the toilet.

The standard dose for someone moderately lactose intolerant is 2,500 to 5,000 FCC units of lactase before consuming dairy. If you're more sensitive, consider 10,000 to 20,000 FCC units. (FCC stands for Food Chemicals Codex. It's an international standard for purity and identity of food ingredients.)

Don't like pills? There are ways to naturally reintroduce milk into your diet. Start with small amounts. Researchers have found that even people, who normally have a problem with milk, can drink a single cup (8 oz.) at a meal or up to 2 cups daily without experiencing symptoms.

If you want to drink more than 16 oz. a day, try training your body. In 1998 researchers at Purdue University conducted a test where they had subjects consume a dairy-based diet. After a few days, bacteria in the large intestine began to adapt. Subjects that displayed modest levels of symptoms at the beginning of the study showed no symptoms after two weeks. Now you can add dairy back to your healthy diet!

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