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What Is Lactose Intolerance And What To Do If You Have It

What Is Lactose Intolerance And What To Do If You Have It

Digestive problems seem to be common these days. Lactose intolerance is one of the longer-known problems, perhaps before the commonly heard ‘gluten intolerant’ or ‘celiac’. Lactose intolerance is one of the most common digestive issues, and affects between 30 million and 50 million Americans today. Generally we know that the problem occurs when we consume dairy, yet beyond that, what is actually happening within the body when a person has such an intolerance? How does the milk we consume affect our digestive system in such a negative way? And how can we best remedy such a condition?

What is Lactose Intolerance?

People with lactose intolerance are most commonly advised to avoid milk and dairy products. This is because dairy contains a natural sugar that the body cannot tolerate – If the body is lacking a particular enzyme that is necessary to break down the sugar found in lactose products. This enzyme is called ‘lactase’ and resides in the lining of the small intestine. In order for the nutrients in lactose to be absorbed, the human body needs this enzyme. Lactose intolerant individuals are lacking this.

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Lactose moves through the body and into the large intestine and when it makes its way through without being properly digested, for intolerant people there can be painful and uncomfortable side effects such as cramping, bloating, gas and stomach pain. The intensity of these symptoms can vary, though on any scale none of them are pleasant. Some lactose intolerant victims can tolerate small amounts but other people have more severe reactions and can tolerate no dairy products at all.

The Challenges of Lactose Intolerance

African-Americans, Asians, and American Indians are most commonly associated with lactose intolerance. People who are lactose intolerant face the challenge of creating a diet that is dairy free, but also that accumulates enough calcium for the body that keeps their bones healthy and strong. Although milk is said to be the number one source of calcium there are actually other nutritious foods that are a high source of calcium – and that won’t affect the body in any negative way. These include sesame seeds and sesame products, leafy green vegetables, almonds and fish. You can also take calcium supplements, though be sure to see a doctor first to advise on new health regimes.

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How Do We Know if we are Lactose Intolerant?

So you think you are lactose intolerant? First – check your symptoms. If they align with the symptoms of lactose intolerance (cramping, diarrhoea, abdominal bloating, gas)  then it is time to see your doctor. This way you can rule out other significant digestive issues – or confirm that it is indeed lactose that is the culprit.

Cheese, because of its fermentation process, can sometimes be an exception to the lactose-intolerant rule. The harder the cheese, the less lactose it has. Extra sharp cheddar, Parmesan, Pecorino and aged gouda are good cheeses to try if you think you may be lactose intolerant. By process of elimination you can begin to read your body and understand what ails it and what is okay for it.

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The doctor can perform a few simple tests to discover if it is lactose that is causing you grief. These include a blood test – where they give you a drink containing lactose before hand. Also a breath test, where they test for high levels of hydrogen. The doctors can also test your stools for high levels of undigested lactose that is being expelled from the body.

However you can do a DIY version. This involves filling up a huge glass of milk, knocking it back, and then documenting the after effects for your health professional. If you experienced the above-mentioned side effects, chances are you are lactose intolerant. But never fear – there are over-the-counter pills you can take to help aid in your discomfort. These pills help replace the missing enzyme momentarily, and thus allow you to consume dairy and have your body act as a fully-functioning digestive system should. And you may not even need to avoid dairy altogether. “Many lactase-deficient people ‘can tolerate small amounts of lactose,” says Stephen Bickston, an American Gastroenterological Association fellow and professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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So stay in tune with your bodies! And remember – if pain persists, see a doctor.

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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