What is lactose intolerance?
When lactose causes problems
What does lactose contain?
Lactase is responsible for breaking down lactose
How to recognise symptoms of lactose intolerance
What symptoms indicate lactose intolerance?
What causes lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance – what should I do now?
Lactose intolerance tips for everyday life and nutrition
To make sure you don’t have to miss out on anything
Lactose intolerance affects patients’ quality of life. This is not only due to giving up foods containing lactose but above all because of the associated gastrointestinal complaints, which are often difficult to prevent entirely. The following tips should make it easier for you to deal with lactose intolerance in your everyday life.
Tip 1: Lactose is hidden in pretty much everything
Lactose is not only found in dairy products, but also in many convenience foods that appear to be lactose-free at first glance, such as ready-made soups, baked goods, spice mixes and meat products. Lactose is also used as a carrier substance in medicine. Labelling the ingredients “milk and products derived from milk (including lactose)” is compulsory on foodstuffs according to EU regulations. Lactose must be highlighted in any list of ingredients. In addition to milk sugar and lactose, terms such as lactose monohydrate, milk (powder), whole milk (powder), whey (powder), sweet whey (powder), sour whey (powder), skimmed milk, whey products, cream, cream powder, sour cream and butter also indicate the presence of lactose. People who suffer from lactose intolerance can be reassured that they are playing it safe if a product contains the label “lactose-free”. Numerous lactose-free foods have now found their way onto supermarket shelves. The portfolio ranges from soy-based or rice-based milk substitutes to lactose-free dairy products and ready meals (e.g. lactose-free pizza). Unfortunately, these products are often more expensive than their ordinary counterparts and many people do not think they taste as good. Our shopping guide shows you the lactose content of foods and makes your next shopping trip easier.
Tip 2: Trying things out and observing
Tip 3: Lactase tablets make many things easier
Frequently asked questions
What is lactose?
What is lactose intolerance?
How does lactose intolerance develop?
Primary lactase deficiency often occurs from the age of 5, but can also become apparent in later years. In older people, a decrease in lactase activity is part of the natural ageing process. Only in very rare cases does the defect already exist at birth, meaning that babies with the condition cannot tolerate breast milk and are dependent on special food.
Intestinal conditions can also lead to temporary lactose intolerance. Damage to the mucous membrane of the small intestine also disrupts the function of enzymes located here, such as lactase. Diseases of the small intestine such as Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease or bacterial infections, as well as gastrointestinal surgery or the use of antibiotics, can therefore lead to “secondary” lactose intolerance. The reduced lactase activity is therefore not genetic and usually returns to normal when the underlying condition is treated.
Is lactose intolerance an allergy?
How can lactose intolerance be diagnosed?
H2 breath test
In the H2 breath test, a solution containing lactose is first drunk and then the hydrogen content in the breath is measured at regular intervals. If the lactose is not broken down by the enzyme lactase, the intestinal bacteria convert it into hydrogen and other substances. Therefore, the higher the proportion of hydrogen in the exhaled air, the less lactose the patient can tolerate.
Lactose load test
The lactose load test is often combined with the H2 breath test. The patient also takes a lactose solution and then the doctor measures the rise in their blood sugar level. If a patient can break down lactose normally, it will increase. If they are lacking in the enzyme lactase, a correspondingly lower amount of glucose enters the blood; their blood sugar level remains unchanged or rises only very slightly.
The simplest and most convenient method of identifying a lactase enzyme deficiency is gene analysis: The pharmacist takes a swab of the patient’s oral mucosa using a special cotton swab and has it examined in a certified specialist laboratory. The findings can be obtained in a very short time and often the patient’s journey to find the cause of their digestive complaints comes to an end. In addition to safety, one advantage of this procedure is that the patient does not have to take a solution containing lactose to prepare for the test, as is the case with the H2 breath test, and is thus spared the associated unpleasant symptoms.
What is the recommended intake of lactase products?
If food containing lactose is consumed again later, it is necessary to use the lactase enzyme again. Lactase can only work if it is in the digestive tract at the same time as the food which contains lactose.