A lactose sensitivity is defined as the inability to fully digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy products. In order to digest lactose, the enzyme lactase must be present. For many people, this enzyme is present in extremely low levels, thus causing uncomfortable symptoms such as cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
Fortunately, there are several natural treatments for lactose sensitivities, one of which is supplementing with probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, primarily bacteria, which would typically be found in the human gut. They are necessary for proper digestion and immune health, fighting off unhealthy bacteria that may cause disease. Experts believe that by supplementing with additional probiotics, we can further protect ourselves from disease.
Probiotics can be taken as a supplement or found naturally in yogourt and many fermented foods such as sauerkraut and miso. Unfortunately, for those who have a lactose sensitivity, receiving the benefits of probiotics from yogourt is counterintuitive to their condition.
For those with lactose sensitivities, supplementing with a multi-strain probiotic may be the best way to receive the benefits of probiotics. What’s more is that these immune-boosting microorganisms may actually improve symptoms of lactose sensitivities.
The Mayo Clinic online recommends probiotics to those with a lactose sensitivity, as probiotics may help the body to digest lactase. In addition, several studies suggest that probiotics help treat diarrhea, a common symptom of lactose sensitivity.
Choosing a probiotic supplement
With all the products out there promising the same thing, it’s hard to determine which probiotic supplement will have the most positive effect on our health. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a probiotic supplement for lactose sensitivity.
- Choose multi-strain probiotics rather than single-strain, as the multi-strain variety will have stronger effects and provide more immune-supporting benefits.
- Look for enteric-coated capsules, which allow the capsule to pass through the stomach without interference from stomach acid for maximum absorption in the intestine.
- Check the label for specific strains of probiotics that are promoted to be beneficial to those with lactose sensitivities, including Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus, and strains from the Bifido probiotics family.
A lactose sensitivity may be a fact of life for many, but probiotic supplements may offer symptom relief as well as provide the digestive- and immune-supporting benefits without the upset stomach that dairy causes.