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What is a Lactase Supplement?

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  • Written By: S. Gardner
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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A lactase supplement is an oral supplement that may reduce symptoms associated with lactose intolerance. The supplement replaces a lactose-intolerant body's missing lactase enzyme, which is needed to break down the lactose found in dairy products. Commercial extracts of lactase are achieved by growing the lactase on mediums that contain fungi or yeast. While the supplements are available without a doctor’s prescription, they should not be taken without a doctor’s recommendation.

Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products, including milk, yogurt and whey. Lactase is the enzyme needed to digest, or break down, the sugar so it can be absorbed in the small intestine. Lactase is produced naturally in the human body, but some people do not produce enough lactase to completely digest lactose. Undigested lactose may cause upset stomach, bloating, abdominal cramps, gas and diarrhea.

A lactase supplement may help to reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance in people who naturally produce limited amounts of the enzyme. The use of oral lactase may allow them to drink milk and eat foods such as ice cream and cheese without discomfort. The supplement cannot relieve symptoms associated with any type of dairy allergy or a non-lactase-related food intolerance.

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Most lactase supplements are produced by growing the lactase enzyme on Kluyveromyces fragilis or Kluyveromyces lactis yeast mediums. Lactase may also be grown on mediums that include Aspergillus niger or Aspergillus oryzae fungi. All mediums are maintained in a sterile environment to produce a safe, oral form of the lactase enzyme.

There are no known side effects associated with taking an oral lactase supplement, though it should not be taken without a doctor's recommendation. The symptoms of lactose intolerance are similar to symptoms of other intestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, so it is important to obtain a diagnosis of lactose intolerance before attempting to resolve the symptoms with a lactase supplement.

An oral lactase supplement may be helpful for some, but lactose intolerance is different for each sufferer. Some can still eat small amounts of dairy without needing a supplement, while others need a supplement — or two — if any amount of dairy is to be consumed. Those who find no relief through a lactase supplement can try dairy milk alternatives including rice milk or soy milk as a substitute for dairy milk in the diet. While rice milk and soy milk do not naturally contain the same nutrients as dairy milk, they are often fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

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croydon
Post 3

@indigomoth - Lactase is used in making some products and it also occurs naturally in some foods like yogurts, which break down the lactose in the original milk (particularly live yogurts).

But, unfortunately, they usually don't have enough lactase to make a difference if someone is intolerant, because there will still be lactose present.

You're better off steering away from milk altogether and giving your father something like ricemilk products, or soymilk products.

If he absolutely has to have milk, then I would just go with a lactase supplement.

If it's not going to kill him, but just make him uncomfortable, he will probably never stop doing it. It's the habit of a lifetime after all!

indigomoth
Post 2

I've heard that lactase is used in the manufacture of ice cream, since lactose freezes at too low a temperature and can cause ice crystals. It's also not as sweet as its components.

I wonder if that means that ice cream is not as bad for those who are lactose intolerant to eat? I've heard that yogurt can also be OK to eat. I'm just asking because my father is slightly lactose intolerant but he tends to just ignore it and suffer for it later on. If I could find some products which are satisfactory substitutes maybe he'd stop doing that.

browncoat
Post 1

I know there are certain ethnic groups which tend to have lactose intolerance. I wonder if lactase is widely known everywhere as being a kind of cure for lactose intolerance (albeit only in some cases).

I believe lactose intolerance is often found in groups which did not have a form of milking cattle in pre-history, and so never developed the need to break down lactose. But, since Western tastes for milk and in particular cheese and icecream are spreading, I would think that this particular kind of lactose intolerance pill would do well all over the world.

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