What Happens If You Ignore Lactose Intolerance?

When you are lactose intolerant, consuming dairy products can be a distressing experience. Despite the discomfort, some people may choose to ignore their lactose intolerance, either due to a love for dairy or simply not wanting to give it up. In this article, I’ll explain the consequences of ignoring lactose intolerance and what you can do to manage it better.

What is lactose intolerance?

Simply put, lactose intolerance occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. Without sufficient lactase, lactose remains undigested, leading to digestive symptoms that range from mild to severe.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

Ignoring lactose intolerance and continuing to consume dairy products can result in the following symptoms:

  1. Bloating
  2. Gas
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Abdominal pain
  5. Nausea

These symptoms typically occur 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming dairy and can last for several hours.

Long-Term Effects of Ignoring Lactose Intolerance

While lactose intolerance is not life-threatening, ignoring it can have long-term consequences on your health and well-being.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Constant diarrhea and malabsorption can lead to nutrient deficiencies, particularly calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for bone health. Over time, this could increase the risk of developing osteopenia, osteoporosis, and fractures.

Also, malnutrition and weight loss can occur as a result of not digesting essential nutrients from dairy products.

Reduced Quality of Life

Living with constant digestive discomfort can take a toll on your quality of life. The physical symptoms can affect your mood, energy levels, and social life, making it difficult to enjoy activities and events that involve food.

Increased Risk of Other Digestive Disorders

Ignoring lactose intolerance can also increase the risk of developing other digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Addressing lactose intolerance can help prevent complications and improve overall gut health.

Managing Lactose Intolerance

It’s no secret that if you’re lactose intolerant, you can still enjoy a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle by making some adjustments to your diet and habits.

Dairy Alternatives

Experiment with dairy alternatives, such as almond milk, soy milk, or lactose-free yogurt. There are numerous lactose-free and dairy-free options available in grocery stores that can help you maintain a balanced diet without discomfort.

Lactase Supplements

Consider taking over-the-counter lactase supplements before consuming dairy products. These supplements contain the lactase enzyme needed to break down lactose, potentially reducing or eliminating symptoms.

Gradual Dairy Introduction

Some people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of dairy. Try introducing dairy products in small quantities to see how your body reacts, and adjust your intake accordingly.

Consult a Healthcare Professional

If you’re experiencing symptoms of lactose intolerance or have concerns about your diet, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional. They can help you determine the extent of your lactose intolerance and provide personalized recommendations for managing the condition.

Allergy Testing

In some cases, lactose intolerance symptoms can be similar to those of a milk allergy. Your healthcare provider may recommend allergy testing to rule out a milk allergy and ensure you’re receiving the correct treatment.

Registered Dietitian

A registered dietitian can help you develop a balanced, lactose-free meal plan that meets your nutritional needs. They can also provide guidance on supplementing your diet with essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

Further Reading: Signs That You May Have Lactose Intolerance

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