Lactose intolerance relates to a condition where the body has troubles with lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products.
If people who are lactose intolerant consume milk or milk products, they can get diarrhea, stomach pains, and bloating. Some people are born with lactose intolerance, while others can develop it as a result of gastroåenteritis or chemotherapy. The best way to deal with lactose intolerance is primarily to avoid products containing lactose, such as milk or cheese.
Lactose Intolerance relates to the sugar lactose, which is often found in milk and dairy products. Lactose does not get taken in by the body until it is broken down into simple sugars called glucose and galactose. This process occurs when the lactose interacts with a chemical called lactase, which occurs when the lactose is sent through the stomach and into the upper small intestine. Lactase is created by cells inside the upper small intestine. A lactase deficiency means that lactose cannot be effectively broken down for absorption, leading to lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is not the same as an allergy to milk, which comes about when your immune system negatively reacts to the proteins found in the milk.
Where does lactose intolerance come from? Lactose intolerance can be narrowed down to a couple of causes. Lactose intolerance can be inherited. It can be inherited in two forms: primary lactase deficiency and congenital lactase deficiency. Primary lactase deficiency refers to generally low levels of lactase, and can happen at any age. Congenital lactase deficiency, on the other hand, refers to the complete lack of lactase from birth, and symptoms occur when the baby is given lactose for the first time. Lactose intolerance can also come from a secondary lactase deficiency, which occurs when the cells that produce lactase in the upper intestine are damaged by something, such as a stomach infection. Finally, lactose intolerance can occur through developmental lactase deficiency. This is a temporary form of lactose intolerance that generally occurs in babies born prematurely. These babies have not yet produced enough lactase, which can lead to symptoms, but eventually the babies will produce enough lactase to grow out of it.
What symptoms occur as a result of lactose intolerance? Lactose intolerance can lead to bloating, stomach pains, diarrhea, excessive burping, gas, and itching around the bottom. These symptoms generally occur a couple hours after consuming milk or dairy products. The severity of the symptoms depend on the amount of lactose that was taken in. Greater amounts of lactose consumed generally result in greater chance of symptoms occurring.
How is lactose intolerance identified? If any of the symptoms occur after eating or drinking milk or dairy products, then there is a high likelihood of having lactose intolerance. Medical tests are generally not necessary in identifying lactose intolerance. However, certain tests can be used on the breath or blood.The breath test is used to gauge the amount of hydrogen in the breath after intaking lactose. In rare cases, an intestinal biopsy may be necessary, in which a sample of the lining the small intestine is taken to provide a diagnosis.
Treatment for lactose intolerance generally involves avoiding lactose. Carefully select food that does not contain lactose, and problems should not arise. It is also possible to buy lactase supplements which can help with the digestion of lactose products.
Aimee Harris-Newon, Psy.D., D.A.B.P.S., C.Ht