Lactose Intolerance

LACTOSE INTOLERANCE milk

Last Updated August 16th, 2018

Overview

Milk and milk products form an important part of the daily diet in several parts of the world. However, not everyone’s body is necessarily equipped to digest dairy or dairy-based foods. Milk and milk products contain a form of sugar known as lactose. In order to digest this substance, our bodies require an enzyme called lactase. Those whose bodies do not produce sufficient quantities of lactase may suffer symptoms such as diarrhea and gas when they consume certain dairy products. 

 

What is Lactose Intolerance?

LACTOSE INTOLERANCE stomach painLactose intolerance is a metabolic disorder in which the body is unable to digest dairy products fully as a result of enzyme deficiency. When people with lactose intolerance consume certain dairy products, they tend to suffer symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating and gas. Some may even vomit. This is not the same as a food allergy. There is no involvement of the immune system in this case. Rather, it is a defect in metabolism brought about by the deficit of an enzyme.

One may suffer an occasional bout of discomfort after consuming milk or another form of dairy. But this does not necessarily indicate lactose intolerance. If the same symptoms appear every time dairy products are taken, then this is a sign of lactase deficiency leading to lactose malabsorption.

 

Causes

The small intestine produces an enzyme called β-galactosidase or lactase whose main function is to aid in the digestion of lactose. This enzyme works by breaking lactose sugars into smaller and simpler sugar units in the form of glucose and galactose. These are easier to absorb into the bloodstream. Lack of sufficient quantities of this enzyme means that at least some amount of lactose remains undigested and passes on into the large intestine. This is known as lactose malabsorption. Once in the large intestine, the bacteria present in the organ act on this undigested sugar, breaking it down to release water, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen gases. This is the direct cause of uncomfortable symptoms such as foamy diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and flatulence.

Some individuals are born with this condition and others develop it later in life, often in teenage or early adulthood. A fuller list of causes appears below.

  • Congenital deficiency of lactase.
  • The likelihood of developing lactose intolerance increases with advancing age. This condition is not very likely to arise early in life although newborns and young children can be affected.
  • Babies born prematurely may have this condition since their bodies may not as yet have developed the ability to produce lactase.
  • Prevalence of lactose intolerance is higher among certain ethnic groups as compared to others. For instance, it is common among those of Asian, African, Mediterranean or Native American descent.
  • Disorders such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease can also trigger lactose intolerance.
  • Complications resulting from chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer in the intestinal region.

 

Symptoms

LACTOSE INTOLERANCE milkIt is not necessary that a deficiency of lactase should necessarily cause the person to suffer symptoms every time they consume dairy products. The degree of intolerance can vary. Often, patients are capable of tolerating small quantities of certain forms of dairy. Some may experience a short-lived bout of lactose intolerance and in other cases, this may persist as a chronic condition. Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea, often frothy or foamy in nature.
  • Gas and flatulence.
  • Belching.
  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Abdominal pain or tenderness.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.

Symptoms generally set in about half an hour to two hours following intake of dairy products. The severity of symptoms is variable and depends on the degree of intolerance and the quantity of dairy that has been consumed.

 

What are the Different Types of Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance can take any of four forms. These are:

  • Primary lactose intolerance: This is the most common manifestation of lactose intolerance and is prevalent among those of Asian, African, Mediterranean and Native American heritage. Infants, solely dependent on milk for nutrition, generally produce enough lactase to digest this entire milk intake. Once they are weaned off milk and exposed to other foods, lactase production naturally decreases. However, in some cases, the production of lactase drops to such an extent that the individual becomes lactose intolerant. This is dependent on genetic factors.
  • Secondary lactose intolerance: In this case, lactose intolerance may be triggered by a bout of illness, trauma to the small intestine or a chronic condition such as celiac disease. Treatment of the underlying condition can help to resolve symptoms of lactose intolerance.
  • Congenital lactase deficiency: Some individuals are born with a complete inability to produce the enzyme lactase in the small intestine. This trait is genetically inherited and arises as a result of a mutation in a recessive gene. In other words, for an individual to inherit and express this condition, it is necessary to inherit the defective mutation from both parents. This form of lactose intolerance is comparatively rare.
  • Developmental lactase deficiency: This form is associated with premature birth. Fetuses develop the ability to produce lactase rather late in gestation. Birth prior to this development leaves the infant unable to digest milk. However, this is a temporary condition.

 

Clinical complications

Completely cutting out dairy means losing a vital source of dietary calcium. This mineral is important for infants, adolescents and menopausal women in particular. Reduced calcium intake can result in loss of bone density and manifest in the form of conditions like osteoporosis. Therefore, patients must take care to ensure that they include enough of alternate sources of calcium in their diet. This includes foods such as broccoli, almonds, tuna, salmon and calcium-enriched soy milk products.

 

Diagnosis

LACTOSE freeThe symptoms of lactose intolerance may initially appear to mimic those of other conditions. However, the patient eventually comes to recognize a pattern and link the symptoms with occasions on which he or she may have consumed milk or dairy-based foods. This observation aids in making a clear diagnosis. Suspicion of lactose intolerance can be confirmed by means of the following tests:

  • Physical examination.
  • Medical history.
  • Hydrogen breath test. The patient is asked to provide a breath sample after a period of fasting, usually overnight. He or she is then given a lactose-based drink and breath samples are collected at regular intervals. Presence of higher levels of hydrogen gas in the breath indicates an inability to digest the lactose that has just been consumed.
  • Lactose tolerance test. This is similar to the previous test. The patient is given a drink containing lactose and their blood sugar levels are measured after two hours. If the level has not risen to a certain extent, it means that their body is unable to metabolize lactose well.
  • Stool Acidity Test. The two tests mentioned above cannot be performed on individuals such as diabetics and young children. In such instances, an alternative test involves checking a stool sample for the presence of the lactic acid which is a positive indicator of lactose intolerance.
  • Biopsy

 

Treatment

  • Do not consume large servings of dairy products.
  • Consume small servings of dairy products in your diet, this can help by the body slowly starting to get used to lactose.
  • Consider consuming probiotics, this can help in reducing the symptoms of lactose intolerance, along with enhancing the bacteria present in the gut.
  • Consume calcium-rich food, to ensure that the chances of calcium deficiency do not increase.

Low FODMAP diet for lactose intolerance:

FODMAPs are a collection of simple sugar molecules that are present in common foods. If these FODMAP molecules are not digested by the body, they can cause discomfort and lead to aggravated symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), IBD (irritable bowel disorder), and other gastrointestinal problems.

FODMAP stands for:

F – Fermentable.

O – Oligosaccharides.

D – Disaccharides.

M – Monosaccharides. 

A – and

P – Polysaccharides.

Dairy products such as cheese, buttermilk, cream, ice cream etc, artificially sweetened foods such as cakes, pastries, cookies, puddings, custards etc. contain high FODMAPs, and may increase the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Rice and soy milk, rice cakes, juices of all fruits and vegetables, and all meat cooked without milk, contain low FODMAPs and may be consumed by those who have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Consuming a low FODMAP diet can help in reducing bloating by ensuring that the food consumed digests properly and does not settle in the large intestine.

Facts

  • 75% of the world’s population will lose their ability to break down lactose at some point in their lives.
  • 30 million Americans below the age of 20 have been diagnosed with the inability to break down lactose.

Facts

  • Lactose intolerance is not an allergy; it is a digestive issue.
  • Once, babies stop breastfeeding the lactose breaking enzymes in their body tend to decrease.

Facts

  • Those who are lactose intolerant can eat some kinds of cheese.
  • Lactose intolerance affects more than 90% people from East Asian, Jewish, Arab, West African, Greek and Italian descent. It affects only 5% of those who are of Northern European descent.

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Consume foods that are rich in calcium and not in lactose such as almonds, figs, watercress etc.
  • Maintain a strict dietary plan.
  • Consume foods with lactase, these help in breaking down lactose.
Don'ts
  • Consume all kinds of lactose products; know which suit your bodies such as a particular type of cheese or yogurt.
  • Consume any kind of milk product.
  • Consume high FODMAPs food.

 

 

 

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Eating Disorders: Lifestyle choice or a psychological condition? Is eating disorder just a harmless bad habit? Or does it represent grim psychological disorders? Do you want…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
Did you know drinking alkaline water could be the healthier choice for you? Ever wondered how safe is your drinking water in terms of pH? Recent studies have revealed that Alkaline…
How to correctly perform nasal irrigation using a Neti Pot? Neti pot has been a part of Ayurveda since centuries. This ancient tool is extremely effective in treating…
Oxidative Stress: Understanding the most lethal phenomenon happening in your body right now Free radicals cause damage to the body, which is known as oxidation.  The amount of oxidation caused by…
11 unbelievable health benefits of thyme you didn’t know! Thyme is a herb that has been used in alternative medicine.It is a well known seasoning in the…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
Tissue Transglutaminase Antibody (tTG) Test Transglutaminase is an enzyme present in our body and is involved in protein metabolism. A tTg test is…
immunoglobulin M
Immunoglobulin M Test Immunoglobulin M is the largest and the first produced antibody which helps in the prevention or fighting of…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
Find all the instant ways to get rid of blackheads Blackheads - Not only are they aesthetically unappealing but if left untreated these can cause bacterial overgrowth on…
Pescatarian Diet 101: What are the inherent health advantages of this diet? People opt to become a pescatarian in order to enrich their bodies with the essential health benefits that…
Oxalates: How healthy greens can sometimes be bad news for your kidneys Oxalates are compounds present in a majority of healthy foods. However, at times an overconsumption of these could…
SIBO Diet: The important dos and don’ts of this gut-healing diet A SIBO diet is a diet that works by eliminating certain sugars from your diet and adding fibers…
Coffee Enema: Turn your favorite morning beverage into a powerful colon cleanser The wonders of coffee are not just limited to waking you up every morning. You can now use…
GGt test
GGT – Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Test GGT or gammaglutamyl transferase test is a liver function test that is used to detect the extent of…
lp-pla2
LP-PLA2 Test The LP-PLA2 test is a test which is carried out to assess the levels of Lipoprotein-Associated Phospholipase A2…
quinoa salad
Quinoa : A prodigious superfood you need to include in your diet today! Quinoa - what is so special about this native South American grain that has taken the world by…
L-theanine attention
L-Theanine: Better sleep, higher focus, and many other benefits Did you know that L-theanine found in green tea can make you sleep better and be focused at…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
bananas exercise
10 health reasons why you should go “bananas” over bananas! Bananas:The world's most popular fruit comes with a host of unbelievable health benefits. Find out how you can…
ashwagandha brain
Ashwagandha: The best-kept secret of Ayurveda now revealed! Ashwagandha literally means "smell of horse". Don't get bogged down by that one tiny detail because this ayurveduic…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It is edible and…
Coconut sugar: What is it and is it healthier than table sugar? In the long list of things that the wonderful coconut gives us, coconut sugar is another remarkable addition.…
The right way to prepare Alfalfa sprouts at home Alfalfa or lusan ghas is not just a nutritious animal fodder. This flavonoid-rich herb has some amazing health…
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
Bubble Tea: Bubbling with nutrition or a hidden sugar mine? The tapioca pearls present in the tea looks like bubbles and hence the name bubble tea became popular.…
thyroid_scan
Thyroid Scan Thyroid scan is a diagnostic procedure that aims to view the thyroid gland and detect any growths or…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
complement c4 test
Anemia Profile Anemia Profile test (Basic) is a blood screening test that measures the levels of important components of the…
shoudler exercises
Keep your shoulders pain-free with these shoulder exercises Shoulder exercises are important in order to prevent chronic back and neck pain. Learn more about how you…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…