Understanding Lactose Intolerance And How It Causes Bloating

Some types of bloating issues are considered serious. However, there are often some pretty common non-serious issues that can explain the problem. For example, bloating may be caused by a lactose intolerance. Keep reading to learn about about lactose intolerance, bloating, and how the issue can be reduced when eating dairy foods.

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

Many people believe that lactose intolerance is actually an allergy to milk and dairy foods. Some people are allergic to cow's milk. The allergy produces hives, rashes, swelling, extreme intestinal issues, and sometimes anaphylaxis. The allergic reaction occurs when the body reacts to the milk protein in the dairy product. This is very different than a lactose intolerance and all dairy-containing foods must be completely avoided.

When you have a lactose intolerance issue, then your body finds it difficult to digest the lactose in the milk or dairy. Lactose is a natural sugar that is found in every dairy product. This sugar is broken down by lactase, which is an enzyme that is produced by the body. Lactase is produced abundantly when you are an infant. This allows you to properly digest breast milk and formula. As you start to eat solids, the body produces less of the lactase enzyme because large amounts of it are no longer needed. 

While many mammals complete producing lactase almost completely, humans do produce some of the enzyme into adulthood. However, the level of production varies between individual. While one person may produce an ample amount of lactase, another may produce very little. If little lactase is produced, then the body can only digest a small amount of dairy. Basically, your body breaks down dairy foods until the lactase is used up. 

If you consume more dairy than your body can handle, then the undigested milk will move through the digestive tract and out of your body. The undigested lactose can cause a great deal of gas to form in the intestinal tract. This is something that occurs as the digestive fluids interact with the lactose. The resulting gas causes bloating.

How Can Bloating Be Prevented?

In general, you will start to feel digestive problems in a short period of time once you consume a large amount of dairy. Bloating will develop within about 30 minutes to 120 minutes. While it may be easy to simply cut out dairy completely to stop the bloating from occurring in the first place, this is not always a wise choice.  If you do this, then your intolerance issue will become more pronounced if you do eat a bit of cheese or milk. Specifically, if your body produces only a small amount of lactase, then the production of the enzyme will reduce significantly if you no longer eat dairy. Your body will simply not need to produce lactase any longer.

Instead of cutting out dairy completely or only eating it on rare occasions, you should instead eat small amounts of dairy on a regular basis. Not only will this help you to reduce bloating issues, it will keep you from gorging on dairy and making yourself ill when you do decide to eat it.

If you decide to cut back on the dairy and eat only small amounts daily, then you will need to test how much you actually can consume without becoming sick. Start by eating once cup of yogurt a day or one-quarter cup of cheese to see if these things make you feel bloated. If they do, then reduce the dairy amount until you can eat cheese or yogurt without feeling the negative effects. Use this amount as a gauge when it comes to your daily consumption. 

If bloating continues to concern you for any reason, it may be time to visit a GI doctor.