Lactose Intolerance: Causes, Symptoms & Management
The inability to break down lactose, a sugar found primarily in milk and dairy products, is a common digestive issue known as lactose intolerance.
Dairy products contain lactose, a sugar that can cause gastrointestinal distress in people who are lactose intolerant. This includes bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and gas.
Consuming moderate amounts of dairy is generally safe for most people, but there are always exceptions. Some people have severe digestive issues and must avoid dairy products at all costs. There are a variety of foods, drinks, and digestive aids available for people who suffer from lactose intolerance.
Which People Have Problems Digesting Lactose?
Lactose intolerance typically occurs in older adults as the body produces less lactase.
About 36% of Americans and 68% of the global population are lactose intolerant. Some racial and ethnic groups are more likely to experience lactose intolerance than others. This includes Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Eastern Europeans, and Middle Easterners.
Lactose Intolerance Symptoms
Within hours of consuming lactose-containing food or drink, symptoms of lactose intolerance typically manifest.
- Flatulence is one possible symptom (wind)
- Distended abdomen
- Pains and cramps in the abdomen
- Sickening rumblings in the stomach
The amount of lactose you’ve consumed will determine the severity of your symptoms and when they’ll begin to appear.
While some people can have milk in their tea or coffee without experiencing any negative effects, others may find that even a small glass of milk is too much.
Is Lactose Intolerance Genetically Inherited?
Your inability to digest lactose may have been passed down to you from your parents, who likely acquired it from their parents. Most people become lactose intolerant as toddlers, and their intolerance only worsens with age, because their bodies produce less and less lactase, the chemical that breaks down the milk sugar lactose.
It’s also worth noting that the term “lactose intolerance” is often used to refer to a group of conditions that can manifest in very different ways, such as digestive issues, intolerance to dairy products, or even an allergy to cow’s milk. While other dairy products like yogurt and cheese do contribute, they do so to a much smaller extent than cow’s milk does.
How Do Doctors Specify If Someone Is Lactose Intolerant?
Your doctor will want to learn about your medical background and family medical history.
They’ll conduct a full physical examination on you. Milk and milk products may be avoided temporarily to assess improvement in lactose symptoms.
To determine if you are lactose intolerant, your doctor can use certain tests. Examples of such things could be:
- Check for lactose intolerance. Your ability to digest lactose will be measured by this test. You will be required to consume lactose-containing liquid during the examination. Over the course of two hours, specialists will collect blood samples. Your inability to experience a rise in blood sugar after consuming lactose may indicate intolerance to that sugar.
- Analysis of exhaled hydrogen. You’re going to ingest a lactose-heavy liquid. You’ll have to blow into a breathalyzer multiple times. An inability to digest lactose could be indicated by a high hydrogen breath reading.
- To check the acidity of one’s stool. Infants and toddlers take this examination. The amount of acid in the stool is measured. Lactic acid, glucose, and other fatty acids can all be found in the stool of someone who has trouble digesting lactose.
Foods That Contain Lactose
Dairy products, such as milk from cows, goats, and sheep, contain lactose because they contain these kinds of milk.
Examples of dairy products are:
- Milk, butter, cheese, cream, and yogurt.
- Desserts involving frozen dairy products
- Cereals, crackers, and other processed foods may also contain lactose.
- Pastry sauces and salad dressings as well as baked goods like bread, crackers, cakes, biscuits
- Protein shakes, and diet
Also Read: Best Foods to Eat During Pregnancy
Most foods traditionally made with lactose now have lactose-free alternatives.
Lactose can be removed from certain dairy products by processing them in a way that separates the sugars into glucose and galactose.
Since these monosaccharides are sweeter than lactose on their own, lactose-free milks tend to taste a little bit sweeter than regular kinds of milk.
The term “lactose-free” appears prominently on the packaging of most lactose-free dairy products. There are many popular brands available, and Lactaid is just one of them.
Almond milk, coconut yogurt, soy ice cream, and cashew cheese are just some examples of plant-based dairy products that are naturally lactose-free.
Managing Varying Lactose Intolerance Levels
Medical experts say that the symptoms of lactose intolerance vary from person to person and from food to food and that some people can tolerate small amounts of milk or milk products without getting sick.
Cheddar and Swiss cheeses are examples of solid cheeses that are lower in lactose than their softer counterparts. Yogurt has an additional benefit over other dairy products in that it is simpler to absorb.
To alleviate symptoms, try taking lactase pills or drops before eating, like Lactaid or Dairy Ease. For those who have difficulty digesting milk, there are plenty of lactose-free substitutes available in the supermarket.
If you are lactose intolerant and therefore unable to consume any milk or milk products, you should consult your doctor about whether or not you should take calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent deficiencies.
Increase lactase production in the body, there is currently no treatment available. However, dietary changes can alleviate your condition’s symptoms. If you regularly experience symptoms of lactose intolerance after consuming dairy foods, especially if you are concerned about getting enough calcium, you should schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist in Lahore.
Adult lactose intolerance is most common in people of East Asian descent, affecting between 70 and 100 percent of the population. People of West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, and Italian descent also tend to be lactose intolerant at a high rate.
Cream, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and butter are all made with milk and contain lactose, so they should be avoided if you’re lactose intolerant.
People who have trouble digesting lactose often experience abdominal discomforts, such as bloating, gas, and cramping. Even though gas pains aren’t typically burning, they can be quite sharp at times. While gas pains can be excruciating, they typically don’t last long. Rapid movement to various abdominal regions is common.