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Home :: Lactose Intolerance

Lactose Intolerance - Symptoms And Treatment

Alternative name : Lactase Deficiency

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose (present in milk sugar and dairy products). Normally when you eat something containing lactose, the body produces an enzyme called lactase in the small intestine. Lactase breaks down lactose into simpler sugar forms called glucose and galactose, which are then easily absorbed into the bloodstream and turned into energy - fuel for our bodies. If lactose is not absorbed properly, it ferments and this results in abdominal pain, a bloated stomach and diarrhea .

The degree of lactose intolerance varies from individual to individual. For most of the world's adults, lactose intolerance is actually a normal condition. Only Caucasians of northern European origin generally retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. In the United States, an estimated 30 to 50 million people are lactose intolerant. Lactase deficiency can also occur as a result of a gastrointestinal disorder that damages the digestive tract, such as celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, regional enteritis, or ulcerative colitis. It can also develop on its own.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

Although far less common, lactose intolerance can occur in children as well as adults. In infants, lactose intolerance can occur after a severe bout of gastroenteritis, which damages the intestinal lining. Symptoms usually begin between thirty minutes and two hours after consumption of dairy foods. Symptoms of lactose intolerance in an infant can include foamy diarrhea with diaper rash, slow weight gain and development, nausea and vomiting. The severity of symptoms varies depending on the amount of lactose each individual can tolerate.

What causes lactose intolerance?

Lactose is a disaccharide, which means that it is composed of two other sugars bound together. In order for lactose to be absorbed, it must be split into those two smaller sugars. This split is performed by an enzyme called lactase, an enzyme manufactured in the small intestine that splits lactose into glucose and galactose. When a person with lactose intolerance consumes milk or other dairy products, some or all of the lactose they contain remains undigested, retains fluid, and ferments in the colon, resulting in abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and gas.

Treatment for lactose intolerance

Here are some home remedies for dealing with lactose intolerance:

  • Include yogurt in your diet. Yogurt is the one dairy product that can be good for a person with lactose intolerance. The cultures present in yogurt digest the lactose it contains, so it is no longer a problem. They also aid in over­all digestion. Be sure to eat only yogurt that contains active live yogurt cultures. Homemade yogurt is best.
  • Eat a variety of dairy-free foods that are rich in calcium, such as leafy greens (like spinach, brussels sprouts, or broccoli).
  • Be sure to eat plenty of foods that are high in calcium. Good choices include apricots, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, collard greens, dried figs, kale, calcium-fortified orange juice, rhubarb, salmon, sardines, spinach, tofu, and yogurt. Calcium supplements may be beneficial.
  • If you are pregnant and have a family history of lactose intolerance, give serious consideration to breastfeeding your baby. If that is not possible, choose a nondairy baby formula, such as a soy-based product.

Foods that contain lactose

  • Chocolate.
  • Bread and other baked goods.
  • Milk, butter, margarine, fermented milk products.
  • Cheese.
  • Ice cream.

Is lactose intolerance contagious?

Lactose intolerance is not contagious. These disorders are not transmitted from a person to another, nor are they transmitted through any other media (e.g., bacteria, viruses, animals).

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