Lactose intolerance is a negative reaction of the body when he or she consumes milk and dairy products. It is difficult to get calcium without drinking milk. But the good news is that many dairy food products including milk are an excellent source of calcium but they are more just a calcium pill to provide many nutrients including protein, vitamin, and potassium. Make sure your body is not able to break down milk as it can cause lactose intolerance.

Overview

The only way to know whether a person is suffering from lactose intolerance is to avoiding dairy food products for a period of time in waiting to see if the symptoms of this condition go away. Sometimes, this is just not enough to confirm the diagnosis of your problem, then your physician may recommend a common type of test is known as a hydrogen breath test. If this test turns out that you are lactose intolerant it does not mean that you have to give up dairy products but there are several ways you can still enjoy dairy in your diet. It has been observed in research that seventy-five percent of the people in this world are affecting by this condition.

What are the indicators of lactose intolerance?

The most common symptoms associated with lactose intolerance is going to be stomach pain and bloating. Lactose should be broken down by your body otherwise it will take another route to reach where it belongs and this causes the symptoms of this condition. There are a variety of symptoms associated with this condition along with stomach pain and bloating.

Hard bowel movements, increased gas, constipation, pain in the head, exhaustiveness, unable to concentrate on the things, muscle pain, mouth ulcers, problems related to urination, joint pain, and eczema are the other symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.

It is really important for the people who are experiencing the above symptoms should talk with their primary care provider or consult a specialist who has expertise in this area. He or she will review what’s going on and they also review with you about your family history and help you to determine what options are best for you.

What are the causes of lactose intolerance?

There can be a variety of metabolic causes that can include and this is very important to keep in mind. The main cause of lactose intolerance is when your body is unable to digest milk sugar. If the body of a person doesn’t produce enough enzyme to the proper digestion of lactose, it will result in lactose intolerance. This enzyme will turn the sugar into two simple sugars like

  • Glucose
  • Galactose

The above simple sugars will be absorbed into the bloodstream with the help of intestinal lining. If you are suffering from lactose intolerance, whenever you consume milk and dairy products, the food moves into the colon instead of being processed. People normally experience the indicators of this condition when normal bacteria in the colon interact with the undigested lactose.

What are the types of lactose intolerance?

As per the medical health professionals, lactose intolerance is categorized into three types. These types include

  • Primary lactose intolerance
  • Secondary lactose intolerance
  • Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance

Primary lactose intolerance

It is considered as the most common type of this condition people usually experience and this type of lactose intolerance occurs when children substituting their milk protein foods with other foods. As a result, the digestion problem occurs due to a lack of lactase in the body. It will be difficult for the body to digest the milk protein foods without the support of lactase. If you are suffering from primary lactase intolerance talk with your physician about what’s going on and they can review with you about your family history and help you to determine what options are best for you or if you neglect to consult your healthcare provider, then things will go back to how they were.

Secondary lactose intolerance

This type of lactose intolerance occurs in people when there is a significant reduction in the production of lactase in the small intestine after an illness. Following are the diseases people normally experience when they are diagnosed with secondary lactose intolerance. These diseases include

  • Intestinal infection
  • Celiac disease
  • Overgrowth of bacteria
  • Crohn’s disease

Treating the above disorders can increase the production of lactase in the small intestines. But it will take some time to ease the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance

This is a rare type of lactose intolerance and it occurs in the people who have a family history of this condition. For example, if a member in your family has a medical history of this type of lactose intolerance, then their infant also has a higher risk of getting diagnosed with this disease. If both the mother and parents suffered from this condition in the past, then there are high chances of their baby may get affected by this condition. This condition has the capability of passing from generation to generation. This process is called autosomal recessive.

What are the risk factors of lactose intolerance?

There are a number of well-established risk factors developing lactose intolerance. The following are the factors that can contribute to the cause of this condition. These risk factors include

  • Increasing age
  • Ethnicity
  • Premature birth
  • Diseases affecting the small intestine
  • Certain cancer treatments

Increasing age

As a person grows older, the chances of getting diagnosed with this condition increases. Babies and children who are young are not likely to develop this condition.

Ethnicity

Following people have a higher risk of developing this condition. These common people include

  • African people
  • Asian people
  • Hispanic people
  • American Indian descent

Premature birth

Infants who born prematurely are more likely to develop this condition and it is due to the reduced levels of lactase in the body. It is not possible for the small intestine to develop lactase producing cells if the baby born prematurely.

Diseases affecting the small intestine

Following are the small intestine problems that can increase your chances of getting diagnosed with lactose intolerance. These conditions include

  • Bacterial overgrowth
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease

Certain cancer treatments

People are more likely to develop this condition when they have undergone radiation therapy for cancer recently or intestinal complications due to chemotherapy.

How is lactose intolerance diagnosed?

In order to confirm the diagnosis of this condition, your physician may ask you some questions related to the symptoms of this condition and will also keep you in observation to check how you are responding when your body is exposed to dairy foods. The following are the tests are recommended by your physician to confirm the diagnosis of lactose intolerance. These tests include

  • Hydrogen breath test
  • Lactose tolerance test
  • Stool sample

Hydrogen breath test

In this test, the patient is required to drink a liquid that contains lactose and your physician will observe your breathing pattern and check how much of hydrogen in your breath. When a high amount of hydrogen coming out when you are breathing too much, then your doctor assumes that your body is unable to digest the lactose and not absorbing it.

Lactose intolerance test

This test also requires you to drink high levels of lactose liquid and they will conduct a blood test to you. This test provides the necessary information about the amount of glucose in the patient’s bloodstream.

Stool sample

Physicians can’t perform the above tests for infants. So, they simply conduct a stool test and if it indicates the below signs, then doctors will confirm the diagnosis of lactose intolerance in infants. These signs include

  • High levels of acetate
  • Fatty acids in the stool

If the physician ruled out the above signs in the infant, then he or she will confirm the diagnosis of this condition.

How is lactose intolerance treated?

To manage the symptoms and treating the lactose intolerance condition, your physician may advise you to reduce your intake of lactose products. The main objective of any form of treatment is to restore the body’s ability to digest the enzyme known as lactase. This process will take time in order for your small intestines to produce enough lactase to digest the lactose.

It is advised to maintain a low-lactose diet when a person is suffering from the symptoms of lactose intolerance. The other way to treat lactose intolerance is to avoid the dairy food products for a period of time in waiting to see if the symptoms of this condition go away. There are no medications that you can take to manage the symptoms of lactose intolerance. All you can do is to reduce the consumption of lactose products or following a low-lactose diet. If your problem is related to the digestive tract, then your physician might recommend probiotics to maintain a healthy digestive system.

Conclusion

Lactose intolerance isn’t a serious condition but the symptoms do not go away easily. Due to this reason, it is really important for the people who are suffering from this condition to consult a health professional because getting an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment can give you relief from the problem.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22917167
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23632346
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26715082
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22917167
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22917167
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22917167
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17397408/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10776747
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