Are you feeling sick every time you have milk, ice cream…?
Lactose intolerance is a condition where the affected loses the ability to digest lactose (sugar) in milk. The fall-out of this condition is evident as diarrhea, gas and bloating. Lactase, an enzyme produced in the small intestine breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose which can be easily absorbed by the body. Lactose intolerance is seen when there is no sufficient production of lactose.
The cause for lactose intolerance is evident as the small intestine does not produce enough enzymes (lactase) that helps to digest lactose in milk. When lactose is left undigested, it passes into the colon to cause signs and symptoms associated with lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is of three types. The first type occurs in children, the second type occurs due to illness or injury of the small intestine, and the third occurs due to congenital factors where babies are born with lactose intolerance.
The symptoms of lactose intolerance include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, bloating and gas. The symptoms usually begin within few 2 to 3 hours after eating or drinking food made with milk.
RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS
Lactose intolerance is seen more in adults than in babies and young children. With age, the individual may develop the condition of lactose intolerance. In those who had premature birth, lactose intolerance develops due to slow development of the small intestine. Those who had received radiation therapy may also confront the risk of lactose intolerance.
TESTS AND DIAGNOSIS
The type of tests and diagnosis depend on the age and health condition of the affected individual. During the lactose tolerance test, which is conducted two hours after taking milk or milk products, the amount of glucose in the blood is measured. The hydrogen breath test measures the amount of hydrogen in the breath at regular intervals, as undigested lactose will ferment in the colon and releases hydrogen. The stool acidity test studies the presence of fermented lactose and lactic acid in the stool.
The discomfort and irritation caused by lactose intolerance can be prevented by avoiding large servings of milk and dairy products, by taking small quantities of milk along with regular meals, and by adding a liquid or powder to break down the lactose.