Lactose, a form of sugar, is found in many dairy products such as yogurt, milk, and cheese. While dairy is considered a significant part of many Americans diets, there are at least 70% of adults that have trouble digesting lactose.
Although lactose intolerance is common, the severity can vary from person to person. Some can take just one bite of cheese or yogurt and experience a great deal of discomfort and others can drink a full glass of milk and experience nothing. There can be many components and contributing factors such as digestive system, diets, and other pre-existing health conditions. Everything combined is what determines the severity of a person's symptoms.
Even though babies come into the world naturally able to digest lactose; it is entirely possible for them to change as they grow older and begin eating different foods. Because as a child grows, their bodies stop producing an enzyme called lactase.
Simply put, a person can blame the bacteria that live within the intestines for a good portion of their symptoms. For a digestive system to be considered healthy, trillions of bacteria need to be present to aid in digestion. But, when a child has grown for example, and their body has decided to no longer makes lactase, consuming lactose can be tricky. If at some point, they choose to eat lactose that may be in products such as milk or cheese, the digestion process will start, and the lactose itself is digested, ultimately producing gases. What follows? Well, it can pretty unpleasant. It doesn't matter if you are a child or a grown adult; anyone can experience things such as flatulence, bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, and or diarrhea.
So, can you eat cheese if you are lactose intolerant? Simple answer-maybe! Not all cheese is made in the same way, and there are some forms of cheese out there that contain very little if any lactose. That's good news for dairy lovers! Here may be a few helpful tips when trying to choose a low lactose cheese:
1. Read the label-Lactose is indeed a form of sugar. If the label states 0 grams of sugar-it has very little lactose (per the FDA standards it’s equal to less than ½ g per serving).
2. Consider age-Aged cheeses such as cheddar are typically lower in lactose because it is allowed to age.
3. Be cautious about processed products-Spreads and cheeses that are processed usually have a high lactose content, which is added during processing.
Dairy products such as cheese do however contain calcium which is needed to maintain healthy bones, and you guessed it, teeth. According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), teeth and bones store 99% of your body’s calcium. While babies do not have teeth when they are born, they begin forming before birth, and therefore an expectant mother should consume the recommended daily allowance (1000-1300 mg/day). As children age, calcium will play a key role in helping prevent things such as osteoporosis. Another benefit as shown in research is that dairy (more specifically milk), can fight decay. The proteins called caseins, come together and can form a protective film on the surface of the teeth-therefore helping protect against acids and decay. Do remember though that this should never take the place of a great home care routine for brushing and flossing and routine dental visits.
Ultimately, it is your child's DNA that will determine whether or not they can produce lactase after childhood-a trait also known as “lactase persistence.” Some research has even shown that ancient humans were lactose intolerant and that lactase persistence came about at different times in different parts of the world. So, if you fear your child may already be showing signs of not being able to tolerate dairy, you may be better off just having them say “cheese” in your family photos. If they can continue tolerating dairy products (such as milk), that combined with routine dental visits and proper brushing/flossing will leave them with their beautiful smile forever!
This article is written by Dr.Kathryn Alderman. She is a biological dentist and family dentist at Nebraska Family Dentistry. She practices mainly at Preserve Family Dentistry, East Location of NFD.
Learn more at https://preservefamilydentistry.com
You can find out more or schedule 24/7 with Dr. Alderman at https://nebraskafamilydentistry.com