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What to Know About Gut Health and Going Lactose-Free

You may have heard the expression “gut health” before. But what exactly does it mean? Gut health refers to how your gastrointestinal tract is doing.

That might have to do with the gut’s physiological function and physical state. The reason this body area matters so much is that there are several gastrointestinal tract ailments that you can get, and some of them can be quite uncomfortable.

Let’s talk a little bit more about gut health and how going lactose-free might be a smart move for you.

Lactose Intolerance

If you know someone who likes lactose-free non-dairy yogurts, then more than likely, that person is lactose-intolerant. This is a condition where:

  • There’s a deficiency of a body enzyme called lactose
  • The individual will want to avoid dairy products

If a lactose-intolerant person eats an ice cream cone or drinks a glass of cow’s milk, they might experience bloating, abdominal cramps, or diarrhea. It’s not a lot of fun, and people who have this condition learn early in life to be cautious about what they ingest.

This is a widespread condition. Doctors consider it to be chronic, and they cannot cure it. However, those who have it can treat it by substituting different diet options rather than dairy ones.

The Gut’s Lactase Reaction

Lactase is:

  • Small-intestine produced
  • What you need to digest milk sugar  

If your body doesn’t produce enough of it, that’s when you have the physical problems we’ve described. 

In someone without lactose intolerance, lactase turns milk sugar into a couple of simple sugars, called galactose and glucose. The intestinal lining absorbs them into the bloodstream. In the lactose-intolerant individual, this isn’t possible.

Why Gut Health Matters

Lactose-intolerance is just one of the conditions doctors think about when they use the term “gut health.” The reason gut health matters so much is that the gut breaks down all food into a simple form that the human body absorbs as nutrients.

If your gut can’t do that effectively, it can cause severe discomfort, pain, or serious long-term conditions. If you can’t digest food properly, then that’s a problem.

A functioning gut is full of immune cells and healthy bacteria. These ward off fungi, viruses, and unhealthy bacteria.

A healthy gut also communicates with your brain through hormones and nerves. This maintains your general wellbeing.

Gut Health Problem Signs

If you have vomiting, heartburn, nausea, loose stools, or constipation, then it might just mean that you ate something that didn’t agree with you. However, you need to pay attention when you often get these symptoms.

You may need to meet with your doctor and talk to them about your diet and lifestyle. Sometimes, these symptoms might not have anything to do with the food you’re eating. They can be stress-related, for example, if you’re having job or home troubles.

Equally likely, though, is that you’ll need to modify your food choices. Often, a doctor will tell you to stick with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. They’ll recommend fish or chicken rather than red meat.

They might also tell you to eat lots of legumes like beans and lentils. These are fiber and protein sources that will help with regular bowel movements.

Switching Over from Dairy Products

If your doctor determines that you have lactose-intolerance based on your reaction to dairy products, that might upset you. Perhaps you like cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.

These days, there are more options than ever if you want some substitutes for these products that taste quite similar to them. For instance, if you want a yogurt substitute, you can have lactose-free yogurt. Several companies offer it.

This is yogurt that contains lactase already. It helps you break down the yogurt since your body can’t easily do it on its own.

There are also more substitutes for cow’s milk than at any other time. For instance, you could try milk that comes from rice, oats, soy, or nuts. All of those will likely be easier for your body to break down.

Your New Lifestyle

You may need to experiment and try some of these products till you come up with one that tastes good and also won’t upset your stomach. You might need to be in close contact with your doctor as you modify this new diet.

Gut health is vital if you’re going to have a happy life. If you find out that you’re lactose intolerant, take action. Don’t keep stubbornly eating the foods that you can’t digest.

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