From milk and ice cream to yogurt and cheese, many items in the American diet fall into the dairy category. There are also quite a few foods one may be surprised to find may contain milk or other dairy ingredients. This may not seem like a big deal to folks who are able to digest dairy, but for the lactose intolerant, consuming dairy can create big problems.
Lactose intolerance is a condition in which one is not able to digest the milk sugar, or lactose, that is found in dairy products in an optimal or complete manner. According to a report by the Mayo Clinic, “A deficiency of lactase — an enzyme produced by the lining of your small intestine — is usually responsible for lactose intolerance.”
For most who are deficient in lactase, managing the symptoms of lactose intolerance means restricting the dietary intake of dairy products. If such restrictions are not followed, the result can be uncomfortable digestive health issues, including diarrhea, nausea, bloating, gas, and cramping. Such digestive health problems may range from mild to severe and may or may not be uncomfortable enough to keep a person from consuming those dairy products.
However, instead of simply focusing on skipping the ice cream and cheese, many people with lactose intolerance may be interested in supplements that could help alleviate the digestive health issues associated with consuming dairy products. One such class of supplements is called probiotics, and these are recommended in the same Mayo Clinic report on lactose intolerance.
“Probiotics are living organisms present in your intestines that help maintain a healthy digestive system. Probiotics are also available as active or ‘live’ cultures in some yogurts and as supplements in capsule form,” the report states. “They are sometimes used for gastrointestinal conditions, such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome, [and] they may also help your body digest lactose.”
Several studies appear to support the use of probiotics for people who are lactose intolerant. For example, a 2010 study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharamacological Sciencesfound that the use of a probiotic supplement improved gastrointestinal symptoms in lactose intolerant patients, as compared to a placebo. While studies such as this one continue to be conducted, clients and patients with lactose intolerance may begin to reap the benefits of taking a probiotic right now.
Of course, quality is of the utmost importance when it comes to selecting which probiotic supplement to use for any digestive health issues, including lactose intolerance. For this reason, you may wish to focus on probiotics that are delivered in the form of spores, as spores are designed to survive the journey through the gastric system so they can colonize effectively and offer greater benefits.