Lactose intolerance is considered as a common digestive issue in which the body could not digest lactose properly. Take note that lactose is a form of sugar typically found in milk and other dairy products.
What are the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance?
- Flatulence or “passing out wind”
- Abdominal cramps
- Bloated stomach
Take note that these symptoms typically develop within a few hours of consuming beverages or food that contains lactose.
When to consult a doctor
The indications of lactose intolerance are similar to other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, thus it is vital to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis before eliminating milk and dairy products from the diet.
If the doctor suspects that the individual has lactose intolerance, avoiding foods and beverages that contain lactose should be observed for 2 weeks to check if there is any improvement in the symptoms experienced by the individual.
Causes of lactose intolerance
It is important to note that the body digests lactose by using lactase to break down the lactose into 2 sugars called galactose and glucose. These can be readily absorbed into the bloodstream.
Individuals who have lactose intolerance could not generate enough lactase, thus lactose remains in the digestive tract where it is fermented by bacteria which results to the production of various gases that triggers the symptoms linked with lactose intolerance.
Depending on the underlying cause why the body could not produce enough lactase, the intolerance might be transient or permanent. In cases that develop among adults, they are often due to an infection in the digestive system and might only last for a few weeks.
Is this an allergy?
Always bear in mind that lactose intolerance is not the same with dairy or milk allergy. The food allergies are triggered by a reaction of the immune system to a particular food which results to symptoms such as wheezing, rash and itchiness.
If an individual is allergic to something, even a small amount can instigate a reaction while those who are lactose intolerance can still consume small amounts without experiencing any issues.
How to manage lactose intolerance
Even today, there is no cure for lactose intolerance but reducing the intake of beverages and food that contain lactose can help manage the symptoms.
Depending on the dairy products that the individual can eat, additional calcium and vitamin D supplements should be taken to keep the bones healthy and strong. Aside from dietary changes, lactase substitutes are also useful. These are tablets or drops that can be taken with beverages or meals to improve the digestion of lactose.
Who are at risk?
The rates of lactose intolerance tend to vary between ethnic groups. It can also develop at any age. Several cases initially develop among individuals aged 20-40 years old but infants and young children can also be affected.