You can actually cure yourself of lactose intolerance. All it takes is a little dedication to change the microflora in your gut. Drink a bit of milk, then drink some more.
Lactose is a special disaccharide sugar, meaning that it’s made up of two sugars – Glucose and Galactose. The bond between the sugars makes it slower to digest than other sugars as it requires an enzyme called Lactase. The enzyme Lactase breaks the bond to allow the sugars to be fully digested.
This does not mean that lactose is not good for you. In fact there are good reasons why lactose is a healthy sugar. You can read my previous blog posts about the health benefits of lactose or my fact sheet about lactose intolerance.
Certain people groups have a predisposition to digesting lactose as they have the gene to naturally produce more lactase. Most know that people of European decent can digest lactose, but there are actually people groups worldwide that also have the gene. The Massai in Africa, and Indians in Asia are a few examples of people practically existing on dairy products. Lactose tolerance has been shown to be less genetic, and more cultural in nature.
For people who have the gene, Lactase production declines as a person gets older. But it is not just the gene that produces the enzyme lactase. The microorganisms in your digestive system also can produce the enzyme. If you nurture these bacteria, you can regain your ability to digest milk.
You can cure lactose Intolerance
The basic problem for lactose intolerant people is that they are not producing enough of the lactase enzyme to properly digest all the lactose in milk. This often results in intestinal bloating and discomfort.
You only need to work to regrow the bacteria in your gut that produce lactase.
A recent study has been done by Andrew Szilagyi, a gastroenterologist at McGill University, in Quebec, Canada in 2015. Szilagyi notes that you can alter and change the composition of bacteria in your gut over time. (Source)
Szilagyi’s suggestion is simple. Most lactose-intolerant folks avoid dairy, and therefore have somewhat different populations of gut bacteria to lactose-tolerant people. Thus, he thinks that if the lactose-intolerant were to regularly consume small quantities of the sugar that causes them problems, they could gradually improve their tolerance to it over time. This would alter the composition of the bacteria in their guts, such that it more closely resembles that of lactose-tolerant people. (Source)
Interestingly, there have been studies on animals such as pigs and rats and their disposition in digesting lactose. Researchers noticed metabolic shifts in the microflora in the gut with each meal. What they ate affected and changed the bacteria in their stomachs. (Source)
What to do
Start with half a glass of milk a day and move up from there. Consume milk regularly to let your body begin to regrow the necessary bacteria. You can regrow the bacteria with minimal discomfort.
The US National Institutes of Health has found that most lactose intolerant people can handle 12g of lactose without noticing symptoms. Symptoms from lactose intolerance don’t usually appear until 6g of lactose has been consumed.
Most lactose intolerant people can handle 12g of lactose without noticing symptoms.
In his research, Szilagyi suggests ‘training’ with 5g of lactose per day, based on studies of similar training exercises with another sugar, oligofructose. To put that into perspective, there are 5g of lactose in 100ml, or about a half cup of milk. (Source)
Lactose intolerance symptoms don’t usually appear until 6g of lactose has been consumed… There are 5g of lactose in a 1/2 cup of milk
It has been found that supplementing probiotics will also help alleviate symptoms of lactose intolerance. One study found that supplementation of probiotics modified the amount and metabolic activities of the colonic microbiota and alleviates symptoms in lactose-intolerant subjects. (Source)
Remember that lactose is essentially a prebiotic. Eating prebiotics like lactose and galactose have been shown to act as a prebiotic in your digestive system and help beneficial microbes grow and flourish.
Don’t misdiagnose yourself – There are so many reasons why a person may have intestinal discomfort. Lactose is one of the most well-known reasons so dairy is often the first to go. But there are many other conditions that can cause lactose-intolerant like symptoms. An alternative reason for lactose-intolerant like symptoms could include Candida Albicans overgrowth.
If you misdiagnose yourself, and the problem is not digesting lactose, you may lose the ability to digest milk over time. If you come back a year later, your gut microflora will be much different than it was the day you stopped drinking milk.
You can still eat cheese and yogurt
Lactose intolerant people still should be able to eat cheese and yogurt. The bacterial cultures in the cheese and yogurt actually use lactose as their food source. The bacteria in cheese and yogurt use almost all the lactose leaving very little left.