Have you ever noticed that milk has an inherently sweet taste? If you never had plain milk, you may not have noticed. Try plain milk and observe the taste.
This is because milk has a type of sugar called lactose. Lactose is one of the many types of sugars or simple carbohydrates that are found in different food sources.
Lactose can not be absorbed during digestion as it is. It needs to be broken down The human small intestine produces an enzyme called lactase. The function of lactase is to break down lactose into glucose and galactose. Both of which are simple sugars, which can be easily absorbed through the small intestinal wall.
About 10% of the population do not produce enough lactase to properly digest a glass of milk.
When you do not have enough lactase, residual lactose makes its way to the large intestine. There is unfriendly bacteria feed on lactose and produce lots of gas. This could easily turn into foul-smelling gas.
Along with gas, it will also produce bloating, stomach discomfort and other symptoms. Many times it can cause dirrhea also, because the large intestine reacts to the large amount of lactose with releasing lots of water.
The symptoms usually appear anywhere between 1 to 4 hours after consuming the milk or dairy products. It takes about that much time for the bacterial fermentation or the colon reaction to start.
Lactose is present in milk and any product that is derived from milk. Lactose is present in milk, yogurt, cheese, kefir, sour milk, buttermilk, butter, whey, curd, milk solids, dried milk and anything else made using milk. The amount of lactose will vary. Hardened cheese has less lactose, butter has less lactose and milk has the highest.
Many people are tempted to self-diagnose lactose intolerance. It is recommended that you see a medical professional to confirm the diagnosis. Typically you will be administrated a certain breath test. Diagnosis is done using the breath test results in conjuction with the observable symptoms with the dairy products.
Lets say that you are suffering from foul-smelling flatulence and you found that you have lactose intolerance. What do you do now? Do you give up dairy completely? You have a few choices.
There is a debate raging in the scientific community about whether we should be consuming any dairy at all. Some people believe that although human milk is essential for babies, we should not consume cow's milk. They believe cow's milk is for calf and not for humans.
This article is not the place to settle this debate. I will make some concrete recommendations for you.
If you have consumed dairy for calcium, you do not need to. We do not need dairy products for our calcium requirements. It is possible that consuming dairy products can make you lose more calcium.
Best source of calcium is leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, collard greens and okra. It is best to limit just the milk or cheese for special occasions. It may be helpful to consume dairy products with live cultures, like yogurt, kefir and buttermilk more often.
You should check with your parents and grandparents. Find out in your culture or family history how dairy was used in the past. There are some ethnic groups who use dairy more than others and have done for ages. They probably have good genetic buildup to support dairy use. In general dairy is not for everyone.
As indicated above, you have an option to give up dairy. If you decide to give up dairy, make sure you get enough vitamin D from other sources. Dairy products are fortified with vitamin D and are a big source. But you do not have to worry about calcium and never need to take calcium supplements.
Another option is to go for lactose free dairy products. The recommendation is to use it sparingly.
You can also try a lactase supplement that you can use right before consuming food.
Do not use dairy products by itself. Rather consume dairy products along with the meal or other food that have some fat and protein. The idea is that if you drink milk by itself, you overwhelm the areas in the small intestine responsible for lactose breakdown.
But if you consume milk with other foods that have protein and fat, you slow down the digestion process and the small intestine has to deal with a regular load of lactose rather than a sudden dump.
Lactose intolerance usually means you do not produce enough lactase for lactose processing. You still produce lactase. Lactase production never completely stops in anyone. This means you can tolerate small amounts of dairy. One has to experiment, but usually less than 4 Oz is okay without any discomfort symptoms.
In summary if you are suffering from frequent foul-smelling gas, it is likely that you may be lactose intolerant. You should rule out this possibility. If you happen to have this intolerance, I have provided with you few options to deal with the condition.