Probiotics and Lactose Intolerance: Definition And Best Strains
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk and dairy products, resulting in gastrointestinal symptoms after consumption which effects 68% of the world's population according to NIH.
Probiotics are live bacteria or yeasts that, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer health benefits by promoting a balanced gut microbiota and supporting various aspects of digestion and overall well-being.
Probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus can reduce lactose intolerance symptoms according to the NHS. Undigested lactose moves into the colon, causing symptoms like flatulence, bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
What Is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is the body's inability to digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk and dairy products like cheddar cheese. When there is insufficient lactase enzyme in the small intestines, undigested lactose moves into the colon where bacteria metabolize it, leading to symptoms like flatulence, bloating, and stomach cramps. This process also increases acidity and osmotic pressure, potentially causing diarrhea. The duration of symptoms varies among individuals based on factors such as lactose intake and gastric emptying time.
Best Probiotic Strains For Lactose Intolerance?
The 3 best probiotic strains for improving Lactose Intolerance are Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-05, Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 according to research.
- 1Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-05: A 1993 study found that administering probiotic capsules containing Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-05® to lactose intolerant adults who were previously on a lactose-free diet resulted in 80% of the participants reporting either no change or improvement in their well-being when gradually reintroducing lactose into their diet.
- 2Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM: A 1995 study authored by RG Montes, found that milk inoculated with Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM or a yogurt culture showed efficacy in reducing symptoms and hydrogen gas (H2) excretion in lactose-maldigesting children. Both Lactobacillus acidophilus and the yogurt culture had a positive effect on alleviating symptoms associated with lactose maldigestion, indicating their potential for dietary management of lactose intolerance in children.
- 3Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1: A 2016 study authored by MN Pakdaman, found the DDS-1 strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus showed effectiveness in reducing symptoms related to lactose intolerance. Participants who took the DDS-1 strain experienced statistically significant reductions in abdominal symptom scores, specifically for diarrhea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, and overall symptom score, compared to those who took the placebo. The study concluded that the DDS-1 strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus is safe to consume and can improve abdominal symptoms during lactose challenges.
Can You Become Lactose Intolerant Later In Life?
Yes, you can become lactose intolerant all of sudden at any age. Primary lactase deficiency, which is genetically programmed, typically appears between the ages of 5-20 years and involves a decline in lactase enzyme activity.
Secondary lactase deficiency can occur later in life as a result of damage to the small intestine caused by conditions like gastroenteritis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), infections, or malnutrition. Primary lactase deficiency is irreversible, while secondary lactase deficiency may improve when the small intestine heals. It is important to note that lactose intolerance can manifest suddenly in individuals who previously had no issues digesting lactose.
Can Babies Be Lactose Intolerant?
While rare, it is possible for babies to develop lactose intolerance to formula or breast milk. Lactose intolerance in infants can occur due to a deficiency of lactase enzyme, which is responsible for digesting lactose.
This can result in symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and excessive gas. It is important to differentiate lactose intolerance from other conditions that may cause similar symptoms in infants, and a healthcare professional should be consulted for proper diagnosis and guidance.
Can Pregnancy Cause Lactose Intolerance?
During pregnancy, it is more common for women to experience an increase in lactose digestion ability, especially in the third trimester. Pregnancy does not typically cause lactose intolerance but some pregnant women may develop temporary lactose intolerance due to factors such as hormonal changes or gastrointestinal issues.
A 1983 study authored by JM Baylis, found a possible association between persistent nausea, food aversions during pregnancy, and cow's milk allergy in infants, suggesting that nausea in pregnancy might be a response to foetal sensitization by cow's milk protein.
How To Take Probiotics For Lactose Intolerance?
To take probiotics for lactose intolerance, incorporate dairy-free probiotic sources into your diet, such as kimchi, sour pickles, tempeh, sauerkraut, miso paste, vegan yogurt, pickled vegetables, kombucha tea, and apple cider vinegar. Taking probiotic supplements formulated for lactose intolerance and remember to take it in the morning, at least 30 minutes before your first meal.
Dr. Sara Mesilhy has a Master’s degree in Gastroenterology and holds a membership with the Royal College of Physicians of the United Kingdom. She completed her Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) at Cairo University and is currently part of the ProbioticReviewGirl medical team.