If you have noticed that milk or other dairy products don’t sit well with you anymore, there could be an explanation. Our bodies can have a harder time breaking down dairy as we age.
Sometimes, eating a low-carb diet can be restricting, despite our best efforts. We don’t want any foods to be off the table because they cause stomach problems!
Lactose is a natural sugar in dairy products. Our bodies produce the digestive enzyme lactase to break lactose down into sugar our bodies can use. Lactose intolerance is when your body lacks enough lactase to properly breakdown dairy. It causes abdominal discomfort and digestive problems. About 75 percent of people lose their ability to digest lactose as they age.
“This enzyme production can decrease over time in some people, so most people can experience some degree of lactose intolerance as they get older,” said Dr. Christine Lee, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic.
Milk is a low-GI food with a score between 30-40. Soy and almond milks tend to be higher than dairy milk. Lactose-free milk has a slightly lower GI score because some of the sugar is removed. But it is also missing some of the nutrients of milk and is generally only recommended for people who are lactose intolerant.
The good news is that fermented products, like cheese and yogurt, already have a lot of their lactose broken down before you eat them. Additionally, lactose-free dairy products exist. So, you can easily replace traditional staples like milk and butter with lactose-free versions. You can also take enzymes before meals. That sounds like an extreme action until we say the brand name of the enzymes is “Lactaid.” Lactaid tablets contain lactase enzymes to help your body process dairy.
Some people can develop lactose intolerance after an illness. If that’s the case for you, it might be best to avoid dairy. If it’s just a side effect of aging, you are most likely fine with eating dairy in small amounts or with enzyme pills.
“If it’s due to decreased production of lactase, then you can choose to take lactase tablets or drops, enzymes sold in most grocery stores without a prescription, or buy lactose-free milk products,” said Dr. Lee. “Always play it safe and discuss your symptoms with your physician.”
People with blood sugar concerns often have to avoid certain foods because of high carb content. It would be unfortunate to cut out another kind of food if it’s avoidable. If you have been struggling and have found it hard to enjoy dairy like you used to, speak to your doctor about it. There may be a lot of ways to enjoy dairy without upsetting your health!