8 things you need to know about lactose

Many of our daily foods have lactose, Isn’t that it? Therefore, it is often difficult to avoid them because it is present in the foods we consume quite frequently. However, in many cases, gastrointestinal problems and discomforts and other different symptoms appear with ingestion of lactose.

This problem has a great deal of space in the current guidelines, because according to art Lactose in processed foods: assessment of the availability of quantity information “a Lactose intolerance It is present in 65% of the world population and affects 2 to 5% of individuals of Northern European descent, 60 to 80% of blacks and Latinos and 80 to 100% of American and Asian Indians. “

Now let’s get down to business, what should you know about lactose?

1. What is lactose?

Lactose is nothing more than the “sugar” of milk, that is, it is a carbohydrate formed by two monosaccharides, glucose and galactose, which results in a disaccharide.

2. What foods contain lactose?

Foods that contain lactose are milk and its derivatives, such as yogurt, cheese, butter, margarine, cream, condensed milk, dulce de leche, cheese mixes and creams, such as curd. It is also possible to find lactose in products and foods to which milk is added, such as bread, cakes, biscuits, ice cream, etc.

To make sure that a product or food is lactose-free, look carefully at its label and observe its ingredients: if there is no milk, whey, cheese, cream, milk powder, condensed milk. On the package you can also find some information, such as “contains lactose”, “zero lactose”, “0% lactose”, “low lactose”. This depends on what each product offers: the amount of lactose in the classification established by the Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA).

3. What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is the difficulty in digesting, absorbing and breaking down this sugar due to a deficiency or lack of the enzyme. lactase. There are 3 types of intolerance: congenital (absence of lactase production), the primary (due to the decline in enzyme production over the course of life) and the secondary (which occurs due to intestinal diseases).

4. What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

Symptoms appear soon after lactose ingestion and are generally: gastrointestinal disturbances in general, abdominal distension, diarrhea, gas, cramps, nausea, bloating and anxiety. Therefore, always be aware of the food and the amount ingested to make a possible association with symptoms.


5. What are 0% lactose products?

In fact, products bearing indications such as “0% lactose”, “zero lactose” or “lactose free” may still contain up to 100 mg of lactose per 100 grams of ready-to-eat food. The big question is that it’s impossible to make a dairy food that doesn’t contain this carbohydrate.

So how do they do something like that that lactose intolerant people can consume? In these cases, lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the “sugar” of milk into glucose and galactose, is added directly to the product. So when someone who can’t digest lactose eats something with 0% lactose, in fact this part of the digestion is already done with the help of the product itself.

Foods marked “low in lactose” may contain from 100 mg to 1 gram of lactose per 100 grams of total product.

6. How to replace lactose in food?

Nowadays it is not difficult to replace lactose with plant milks, such as rice, soy, peanut, almond, etc. It is also possible to opt for lactose-free products, such as milk, yogurt, condensed milk and cream, cheeses that carry the wording “carbohydrates 0” on the label, as well as adapted recipes that replace cow’s milk or derivatives with options that suit your new reality.


7. Is there a lactose allergy?

No, there is a milk protein allergy called casein. Casein allergy occurs when there is an overreaction of the immune system, causing certain types of symptoms such as skin reactions, swelling in the mouth, lips and throat, itching, and some respiratory symptoms. Always pay attention to the labels and pay attention to whether the package indicates allergens present or not. Usually something like this will appear on the label: “it may contain milk or traces of milk”. But even if there are no warnings, always check the ingredients carefully.

8. How is intolerance diagnosed and how can I treat it?

Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed by the doctor by prescribing specific laboratory tests for the detection of intolerance, such as molecular examination, oral test and measurement of hydrogen in the patient’s exhaled air.

The treatment is relatively simple, as it comes down to having specific and individualized dietary indications that allow you to say whether or not it is necessary to completely exclude milk and dairy products or simply reduce the amount of intake of these foods with or without the use of drugs that help the degradation of lactose, i.e. the consumption of the enzyme lactase. This behavior will quickly relieve symptoms, but treatment can only be given by qualified professionals, such as doctors and nutritionists.


Marcela Andrade, a weekly columnist for Mega Curioso, has a bachelor’s degree in social communication with a major in public relations, a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, a judicial expert in nutrition, and a postgraduate student in public health with an emphasis on health strategy. family.

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