Lactose intolerance plagues 65% of the U.S. population. Even though the likelihood of lactose intolerance is high, many people experience very mild symptoms and may live their whole lives without realizing they are intolerant to lactose. Educating yourself about the symptoms of lactose intolerance will help you identify whether or not your health is being impacted by this common issue.
Many products that are popular in American diets contain lactose. If your body is sensitive to lactose, removing it from your diet could make a positive impact on your health. Read on to learn the symptoms of lactose intolerance, how to identify them, and when you should talk to your doctor.
Common Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
The reason so many people have lactose intolerance and don’t realize it is because the symptoms of lactose intolerance look a lot like common indigestion. Lactose intolerance symptoms include:
- Stomach pain
For those who have extreme lactose intolerance, the symptoms could include things like:
- Joint pain
- Skin issues (such as eczema)
Because the symptoms of lactose intolerance are fairly commonplace, they can be easy to ignore. It’s important to listen to your body’s cues if you are experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis. While lactose intolerance isn’t a serious health condition, it has the same symptoms as more serious concerns like Crohn’s Disease.
Understanding how lactose intolerance is so prevalent is easy to do once you understand what it is that causes this intolerance.
What Causes Lactose Intolerance
Your small intestine is in charge of breaking down lactose. Lactose is a type of sugar that exists in all milk products. When you ingest anything containing lactose, your body sends in an enzyme called lactase to break down the lactose into simpler sugars that can then be absorbed by your digestive system. If you don’t produce enough lactase, your body can’t break down lactose, and when it can’t absorb the sugar, it sits in your gut and causes the symptoms listed above.
The uncommon causes of lactose intolerance are congenital and disease-related intolerance. You can inherit a lack of lactase. Diseases that affect your gut health can also cause lactase deficiency as a secondary problem.
The most common causes of lactose intolerance are genetics and age. People of Asian and African descent are less tolerant of lactose due to their genetics. The amount of lactate in our guts is also likely to decrease with age. Elderly people are especially likely to experience lactose intolerance.
It is important to determine whether or not you are lactose intolerant if you are experiencing symptoms. If the lactose in dairy is not what’s causing your symptoms, they could be linked to something more serious. Remember, your body is great at telling you when something is wrong; it’s your job to listen.
How to Tell If You Have Lactose Intolerance
There are some initial steps you can take to determine whether or not you may have lactose intolerance. Doing some at-home experimentation and documentation will help. If you need to talk to a doctor about your symptoms, you will have good data to share with the doctor that will help them to help you.
If you’re experiencing some symptoms of lactose intolerance, here are three things to try:
- Keep a daily food journal. Noting what you eat and how you feel afterwards is the best way to track how your symptoms are or aren’t related to the food you are eating.
- Try an elimination diet. Try cutting out dairy and foods that include lactose for a few weeks and see if your symptoms improve. Try to keep everything else in your life the same. Stress, lack of sleep, and other lifestyle components can also cause indigestion and symptoms of an unhealthy gut.
- Reintroduce dairy/lactose slowly. If your body responds positively to you cutting dairy out of your diet, try reintroducing it slowly. If your symptoms start to come back, you’ll be able to safely tie your symptoms to eating dairy.
Be cautious; lactose can appear in foods you may not expect. Even things like breads and items labeled as “non-dairy” can still contain lactose. Read labels carefully when you cut out lactose. It may also be helpful to do some family research if you have access to your direct relatives. If someone else in your family has an intolerance to lactose that has already been diagnosed, it could be a good clue into your own health.
However, this can go the other way. If you have relatives with more serious diseases such as Crohn’s or celiac disease, it could mean your symptoms are more serious than just your gut protesting over too much ice cream.
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Lactose Intolerance
If you have any serious symptoms, such as constant fatigue, joint pain, or headaches, you should talk to your doctor right away. If your symptoms are on the milder side with indigestion, gas, and skin issues, you could try doing your at-home research before talking to your doctor.
You should talk to your doctor right away if your gut health doesn’t improve when you cut out lactose, as this could mean there’s something more serious than an intolerance going on. Even if you determine that you feel better when you keep lactose out of your diet, it’s a good thing to mention to your doctor. The more they know about your health, the more holistically they can care for you as a patient.
Looking for a doctor’s office you can trust to help when you aren’t feeling well? Look to Camas Swale Medical Clinic. We’re here to care for you.
Does it feel like you’re suddenly hearing the phrase “gut health” everywhere you go? Recent studies are making it clear that it’s time to pay attention to the well-being of the gut and focus on healthy foods for your gut. Doctors, nutritionists, allergists, dermatologists, and even mental health therapists are taking note.
At Camas Swale, we are passionate about helping our patients get and stay healthy from the inside out. Regardless of the symptoms you experience, we are here to get to the root of the problem and make a plan for your well-being. Many medical concerns stem from an imbalance in the gut, and we can help you bring balance back to your body.
What Exactly is the “Gut”?
When the medical community talks about the gut or the gut microbiome, they typically are talking about the intestines. In the past, many people saw the digestive system as merely a long tube with one job: to process food and separate it into stuff the body can use and stuff it can’t.
New knowledge, however, shows us that it is so much more complicated than that. Up to 500 strains of bacteria reside in the intestinal tract, and most of them are helpful and beneficial to a person’s overall health. These good gut bacteria help your body use vitamins and minerals efficiently, ward off viruses and harmful bacteria, and digest food properly.
The small intestine has the mighty job of allowing beneficial nutrients into the bloodstream while keeping harmful particles moving along to be excreted. When the gut microbiome is in good health, this process works well. When the gut is out of balance, and too many harmful bacteria are growing, a surprising number of problems can arise.
What Can Go Wrong?
When the microbiome in your intestines isn’t in balance, many symptoms can manifest throughout your body. Some ailments have an obvious connection to gut health, but others may surprise you. Here are some of the top indicators of a gut health problem:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – Many symptoms and discomforts, such as gas, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea, get a label of IBS. In reality, much of the trouble in this area is due to poor overall gut health.
- Food Sensitivities – When the gut isn’t functioning correctly, it can allow particles to escape into the bloodstream. This is often called leaky gut syndrome. This situation happens when the lining of the small intestine becomes too permeable. When things sneak into the bloodstream that don’t belong there, the body responds in uncomfortable ways.
- Brain Fog – When patients routinely feel lethargic and unable to focus, gut microbiome imbalances are often to blame.
- Skin Irritations – Eczema, acne, and rosacea can have a gut health component. Again, if the intestine is allowing foreign objects to escape, the body will respond, and often, the responses impact the skin.
- Autoimmune Disorders – Leaky gut syndrome triggers your body to believe that it is under attack. When this happens, the immune system can turn on the body, attacking it to fend off the intruders.
The Second Brain
Physical maladies are not the only problems that can occur with poor gut health. Researchers have been learning more and more about the gut-brain connection and the link to mental health. It turns out that the brain and the gut communicate with each other in at least two ways.
They have a physical link by way of the vagus nerve. This nerve is the direct connection between the gut and the brain. They also communicate chemically by utilizing neurotransmitters and hormones that carry messages.
Have you ever been so nervous about a presentation that you couldn’t eat or felt nauseous? We all experience the gut-brain connection at different times, but most of us have never recognized it for what it is. The two parts are communicating with each other.
People often attribute stomach issues like nausea and loss of appetite to anxiety and other mental health concerns. Scientists now realize that it may go the other way. Bacteria imbalances and excessive permeability in the gut actually may be causing mental health problems.
How Do You Balance Your Gut?
The body can do a remarkable job of healing and rebalancing itself under the right circumstances. One of the best things you can do to support your intestinal health is something everyone has to do every day – eat!
The key is choosing the right gut foods for optimal health and the ones that are right for your body. The following choices may prove to be just what you need to get your gut back in order so it can serve you and your good health:
- Mangoes – These nutritional powerhouses appear to help restore healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome. They provide excellent nutrients and are a good source of fiber to boost the digestive tract.
- Yogurt – Packed with beneficial probiotics, and especially when you choose full-fat yogurt with no added sugars. These probiotic strains can help heal the lining of the gut, and help prevent food particles from leaking into the bloodstream.
- Salmon – Consuming wild-caught salmon gives your brain and gut a high dose of omega-3s. These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and boost brain and gut health.
- Garlic and Onions – These pungent roots are full of prebiotics, which are food for the good bacteria in your gut.
- Fermented Foods – There is no shortage of fermented options on the market today. Just about every ancient civilization had a signature fermented food or drink, and finally, the western world is taking note. These options are critical to optimal gut health and provide significant numbers of probiotics. If you want to move beyond pickles, try any of these tasty choices:
Camas Swale is Here to Help
Dr. Armitage is excited to help you live your best life possible. Many times, that best life needs to start by addressing your gut health. At Camas Swale Medical Clinic, we focus on the whole body as we partner with you on your wellness path. Contact us today to make an appointment.
If you stroll through the supplement aisles of your local pharmacy, you are sure to find a large number of omega-3 options on the shelves. Because of all the benefits it provides, you also may have heard about this powerhouse supplement from your doctor. In fact, they may have discussed omega-3 deficiency symptoms with you at your last visit.
In recent years, omega-3 deficiency has come into the limelight. Researchers now encourage medical professionals to consider it when looking at a patient’s symptoms and complaints. Often, the symptoms of an omega-3 deficiency mimic other concerns like low iron or calcium, so the omega-3 problem can slide under the radar. The symptoms can be significant, however, and can impact your health for the worse without you realizing it.
What are Omega-3s, and Why Do They Matter?
Omega-3 refers to a group of three fatty acids that our bodies need that come from animal and vegetable fats. These are the “good fats” you hear about from the doctors and nutritionists. The three types of fatty acids in this group are the following:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): This acid comes mainly from plant oils, and our bodies cannot manufacture it. We must consume ALA in our food or supplements to get proper amounts. Flaxseed and soybeans are examples of plants that contain ALA.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): This acid derives from animal fats and is critical to neurological and cardiovascular health.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): The longest molecule of the three acids in the omega-3s, DHA comes from animal sources and is also essential to brain and heart health, even in fetal development.
Omega-3 Deficiency Symptoms
When our bodies do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids, deficiencies develop. This situation can lead to significant health problems. Some diets and eating plans can make you prone to this deficiency. For example, diets that are high in red meat and poultry or that significantly restrict fat may lead to fatty acid levels that are too low. While some issues that stem from deficiency may not be apparent to the sufferer, the following more obvious symptoms warrant a check of the patient’s omega-3 levels.
- Problems with skin, hair, and nails. Omega-3s build up cell walls, and when levels are too low, you may experience dry skin, brittle hair, and thin nails that peel and crack. Omega-3 deficiency can cause rashes on the skin and dandruff as well.
- Fatigue and trouble sleeping. It can be very tricky to pinpoint what is causing sleep issues because so many things can contribute to the problem, but a lack of omega-3s is a likely culprit. Boosting your levels can help improve significantly the amount and quality of sleep you get. Once you’re enjoying higher-quality rest, you will see many other health benefits, too.
- Deficits in concentration and attentiveness. Subpar levels of essential fatty acids contribute to difficulty with memory and focus and can lead to irritability and anxiety as well. Children and adults who seem to anger quickly for no reason may actually be suffering from omega-3 deficiency.
- Joint pain and leg cramps. Omega-3s derived from fish oil have excellent anti-inflammatory properties. They naturally reduce swelling and inflammation in the joints and throughout the body. If you do not yet experience joint pain, proper intake of omega-3s can prevent the damage that triggers the pain in the first place.
- Allergy symptoms. Hives, asthma, and eczema can all indicate lowered omega-3 levels.
- Excessive ear wax. This symptom is a strange one, but patients who are tired of the gunk in their ears may find that increasing their omega-3 levels will help alleviate it. Aside from the annoyance of excessive ear wax, the buildup can lead to hearing loss. Consuming enough omega-3s can help protect your hearing. One study showed a 14% reduction in the risk of hearing loss for those who added sufficient fatty acid supplements into their self-care routine.
- Cardiovascular concerns. The research is clear that omega-3s are critical for heart health. If you are experiencing heart problems, it may be that you need to increase your intake of this vital nutrient. It protects against heart disease and helps control your harmful cholesterol levels.
- Difficult menstrual cycles for women. Women who experience prolonged, heavy periods with clotting may get relief by increasing their omega-3 consumption.
How Do I Get Enough Omega-3s?
Given all the health benefits associated with this vital nutrient, it is pretty much a no-brainer that people should be ensuring they consume enough omega-3s. So, how much do you need, and how do you actually get enough of it?
Although over-the-counter supplements are a simple way to increase your omega-3 levels, there are dietary options to boost your levels, too. Whenever possible, it is best to get vitamins and nutrients from our food. Then, when needed, you can add in supplements as well.
There is not a strong consensus in the medical world about how much is an adequate intake of omega-3s, but many experts suggest consuming fatty fish at least twice a week or taking 250-500mg per day to reap the benefits. If you use an omega-3 supplement, be sure it includes EPA and DHA. Specific conditions such as heart disease or depression may warrant higher doses, so be sure to talk with your medical provider about what is best for you.
For food-based fatty acid intake, here are your top choices.
Plant-based sources (provide ALA):
- Flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Brussels sprouts
Animal-based sources (provide EPA and DHA):
Not Sure About Your Levels? Give Us a Call
If you identify with the symptoms discussed here, or if you are wondering if your omega-3 intake is enough, give us a call at Camas Swale today to set an appointment. We’d love to talk with you about food plans and supplement options to make sure you are feeling your best.