Lactose intolerance can be an especially frustrating condition to live with. Simply put, lactose intolerance is the inability of the body to digest large amounts of lactose, which is the sugar that is found in milk and in milk products. Lactose intolerance is caused, at least partially, by having too little lactase. Lactase is an enzyme produced in the small intestine. Lactase helps the body to break down lactose into simpler forms of sugar such as galactose and glucose, which can then be used by the body. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, gas, and bloating.
Fortunately for the person with lactose intolerance, there may be some help in the form of probiotics. Probiotics are actually live bacteria that have beneficial effects on the body. These are the same sorts of bacteria that are found naturally occurring in the digestive tract. Specifically, probiotics from the Lactobacillus family, such as the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri, have been shown to have beneficial properties that can help with lactose intolerance.
The way that probiotics like Lactobacillus reuteri can help with lactose intolerance is relatively simple. These probiotics are actually lactic acid bacteria, which is what is indicated by the “lactobacillus” title. Lactic acid bacteria, once they are in a person’s digestive tract, help to break down lactose in the body. They perform the function that lactase was designed for. This is important, especially as people get older, since infants have the largest production of lactase. In fact, as people age, most of them produce less and less lactase. People that have more lactic acid bacteria in their digestive tract, then, are better able to break lactose down into those usable sugars.
There is great promise that probiotics can help with lactose intolerance. Still, more research in this area is needed. More and more information about the beneficial health effects of probiotics like Lactobacillus reuteri is being discovered each year, and there is a significant hope that researchers will be able to determine even more definitively how probiotics can help with lactose intolerance.
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