Lactose Intolerance

When some people face the issue in properly digesting the milk and other dairy products, leading to unpleasant digestive symptoms is known as Lactose Intolerance. We can also say that the inability to digest lactose, which is the sugar found in dairy products including milk.

It is generally caused because the shortage of lactase enzyme in our body, that plays the crucial role in digestion of lactose. However, lactose intolerance is not harmful but is symptoms can be troubling.

Milk and other dairy products has an composition of water, lactose ( carbohydrate), fat, protein, an other minerals. So, the inability to digest lactose which is the main carbohydrate or sugar , is counted as one of the digestive disorder ‘lactose intolerance’.

Who are likely to affected by the Lactose intolerance?

Lactose comprises of the simple sugars of galactose and glucose, for which enzyme lactase is needed to break down lactose into simpler one, further the body will absorbs in to the blood stream to provide the energy to do work. Insufficiency of the lactase makes the lactose undigested and and causes digestive disorders.

Lactase in naturally produced in small intestine, but lactose intolerance develops with the time when the body generates less quantity of enzyme known as lactase. Even if, lactose is naturally present in breast milk or mother’s milk and the new born have the potential to digest it easily but in adulthood some may face the trouble in digesting any form of milk.lactose intolerance 12It is calculated that around 68% of the worlds populations face this issue up to some extent, moreover it is commonly seen Asians, Americans, Easterners and East Europeans, etc.

Causes of lactose intolerance

Lactase is an enzyme that is considered to be responsible for causing lactose intolerance up to some or higher extent. It is produced by the small intestine in our body and is required to digest the ingredient lactose that has been taken up by the body as a meal. If the lactase (enzyme) is not present in sufficient amount, of course the less amount lactose digestion will take place and vice versa.

The shortage of lactase can also be due to digestive disease such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease. It can also be due to stomach infections, intestinal infections, or any injuries or surgery ( radiation, chemotherapy, trauma) to the small intestine may also leads to inadequacy of lactase or it s process may get hamper.

On addition, it is also noticed that with the time this lactose intolerance effect may get reduced when these injuries of the small intestine gets heal up and symptoms gets improved.

  • Primary lactose intolerance: The common type – occurs due to insufficient production of lactase with the progression in the age and therefore one loose the ability to digest lactose with the developing time. It can be genetic too, as some population have this problem in common.
  • Secondary lactose intolerance: As mentioned earlier that sometimes person face this indigestive issue for the small duration, as there may be inflammation is the wall of small intestine that may hinder the production of lactase at that time. Chances of the secondary type of lactose intolerance can be celiac disease, Crohn’s disease. chemotherapy, aging, and ulcerative colitis.
  • Congenital lactose intolerance: It is noticeable in newborns, though rare and inherited type. In this the infants are not able to nurse due to lactose present in the breast milk and the condition may be worsen if not detected at correct time. Diarrhea can be problematic here.
    This condition is life long.
  • Developmental lactose intolerance: It is commonly seen in premature babies, so this condition is also observed in the new born. In the premature babies likewise the some organs even the digestive system is not so well developed and therefore they may face the digestive distress.

Eventually, the condition may decrease naturally as the baby grows but meanwhile lactose-free formula milk should be provided in place of the breast milk.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

People begins the feeling of lactose intolerance by the gas, nausea, bloating, cramps, or diarrhea right after or within 2 hours after the consuming milk or the any products that contains lactose.

Even it is noticed that some may experience of using toilet, lower belly pain. constipation or even vomiting.

The reasons is as already mentioned, as there is no adequate amount of lactase in the digestive system of the body to digest the lactose taken. The severity is correspondent to the amount of lactose taken and the availability of enzyme lactase to digest the same.

As some people are highly sensitive to small amount of lactose, while other are not that much and can tolerate the food containing lactose up to extended level.

Check the ingredients before purchasing the processed food

Before buying the processed food, one should always check the food labels cautiously, check the contents that are derivative of milk and contains lactose, such as
Milk by-products.
Dry milk powder.
Some products only mention, that ‘may contain milk’ on their label. Therefore, on the basis of symptoms one should avoid or limit the consumption of such items.

lactose intolerance 2

Alternate options that are derived form the milk but does not contain lactose:

  • Lactate.
  • Lactic acid.
  • Lactalbumin.
  • Casein.

Moreover, there are some medicines that have lactose as one of the their compositions, such as stomach acid, gas, birth control pills. It is suggested to the person with severe lactose intolerance should always check and consult your health care provider or read the label on the counter before taking these medicines to check the content of the lactose.

Provisions that contain lactose in minor amount includes:

  • Breakfast cereals and cereal bars.
  • Milk chocolate and candies.
  • Cheese flavored crackers and other snacks.
  • Bread and baked goods.
  • Salad dressings and sauces.
  • Sugar beets, peas, lima beans.
  • Pancakes, cookies and biscuits.
  • Noodles mixes, soups, rice and instant potatoes.
  • Few of the coffee creamers.

Diagnosis and treatment of Lactose intolerance

One of the common test, that is performed to test the lactose intolerance is the hydrogen breath test. This test is done under the supervision of the healthcare professions in their clinic. In the hydrogen breath test, the amount of hydrogen is measured in the breath after the patient is asked to consume the eatables containing lactose.

Additionally, Genetic test, Lactose tolerance test, Stool acidity test, and Lactase activity at jejunal brush border are other way to assess the lactose tolerance level.

Moreover, if we switch on the to the treatment part, it is simple that one should follow the diet chart and restrict the items containing lactose. It may vary from one person to the other, that the level of lactose tolerance is higher amount level or low and the types of symptoms produced in their body.

So simple suggestion is the trial and error method, where you can find out the level of lactose tolerance by your body after consuming the varieties of food having lactose compositions if different percent. Furthermore, you can eliminate such eatables from your usual diet and take a fresh start with lactose-free diet.

Enzyme supplements, probiotics (beneficial bacteria) and prebiotics (type of fiber), exposure to lactose on daily basis, are the some options that will help in the digestion stress.

However, the best bet suggested over here is to consult your dietician or other health care provider to seek the correct advice.

The bottom line

Lactose intolerance can be troublesome when it occur at any stage of life or whether it is temporary. This is group of symptoms arising due to inadequacy in lactase in the body – the enzyme that is responsible for the break down the lactose present in the milk and other dairy products into the simpler form and which can be absorbed by the body in the form of energy.

Symptoms are noticeable shortly after the consumption of milk or other relatable products that can be – vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, cramps, etc. The alternate option for the person having lactose intolerance is to take lactose-free food.

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