Have you ever met people avoiding dairy products and milk? Have you seen people suffering from health issues when they take in milk and milk products? This is nowhere deadly condition but it’s quite rare conditional called lactose intolerance.

 

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose is nothing but the sugar. Showing intolerance towards lactose meant producing symptoms when the food rich in lactose. This is also called as lactose malabsorption. It’s not a harmful condition instead it’s a bit uncomfortable and embarrassing situation.

 

What actually is being lactose intolerant?

In simple terms lactase is the enzyme that is required to digest the sugar lactose present in milk and milk products. When the body is in deficiency of the enzyme lactase the individual suffers from lactose intolerance. The lactase enzyme is usually produced in the small intestine.

 

Ambiguity about lactose intolerance

When the individual is deficient with lactase he can digest foods with lactose  to an extent and produces no symptoms but  if the individual is lactose intolerant he produces uncomfortable symptoms upon taking diet with lactose. So that’s a slight difference between being deficient in lactose and intolerant to lactose

 

Mechanism of lactose digestion

When lactose is taken into the body it is broken down into glucose and galactose by the enzyme  lactase which is absorbed into the bloodstream and this happens in the small intestine.

 

What happens to lactose in lactose intolerant individuals?

When there is deficiency of lactase in the colon the bacteria interact with the undigested lactose and produces signs and symptoms which are uncomfortable to the individual.

 

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

Usually the symptoms appear 30 minutes to 2 hours after intake of lactose in lactose intolerant individuals.

The symptoms present as

Diarrhoea

Nausea and vomiting (sometimes)

Abdominal cramps

Bloating

All the symptoms are not fatal (causing death) and subside on withdrawing from lactose rich diet.

 

Kinds of lactose intolerance

There are three kinds: Primary, Secondary and Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance

Primary lactose intolerance

This kind is genetically determined. At birth the child is with plenty of lactase enzyme but as milk is replaced by other foods lactase production decreases.  It is most commonly seen in Africans, Asians and hispanion population.

 

Secondary lactose intolerance

In these individuals the small intestine decreases the production of the enzyme lactase after an injury, surgery and illness. Diseases like   celiac diseases,  crohn’s disease and  bacterial infections. The cure is  restoring lactase enzyme.

 

Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance

It is a rare but possible condition which is autosomal recessive which means the defective gene has to be present in both the parents.

 

Risk factors

Age: As the age increases lactose intolerance increases. It is in babies is rare.

Ethnicity: It is mostly seen in Asia, Africa and hispania.

Premature Birth: Usually lactase producing cells in the small intestine develop in the last trimester. So, in premature babies lactose intolerance is common.

Diseases of the small intestine: Crohn’s disease, certain cancer treatment like radiation for abdomen and chemotherapy also increase the chances for lactose intolerance.

 

Diagnosis

Breath test: Shows high levels of hydrogen in the air we exhale if we are lactose intolerant.

Blood test: Reaction of the body to lactose rich diet is tested.

Stool test: In young children and babies stool is tested to diagnose if they are intolerant to lactose.

 

Food substitutes

Almonds, dried beans, fortified orange juice, soya, fatty fish like salmon, egg yolk, beef are taken by lactose intolerant people in order to substitute the proteins  that are not taken in the body due to avoiding lactose rich diet.

 

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