What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is defined as the body not easily digesting lactose, which is a natural sugar found in milk and dairy products. The lactose moves into the large intestine or colon. Since it’s not properly digested it can cause gas, abdominal pain and bloating. It’s a condition, which is quite common in adults; the majority being Native Americans, Asians, Africans and South Americans.

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The cause of lactose intolerance is the person becomes deficient in the enzyme lactase that is produced in the small intestine. When he has milk or dairy products in his diet he will have difficulty digesting them. The gas (flatulence and bloating), diarrhea and cramping are the result of the undigested lactose being digested by bacteria in the intestine.

When a person is an infant the production of lactase is the highest. By the age of 3 it’s beginning to decrease. As the lactase decreases by adulthood people will naturally reduce the amounts of milk and diary products they eat. Because of this they will need to find another source of calcium in their diet.

Lactose intolerance occurs because of one of three reasons; those reasons being congenital, secondary, or developmental or primary. Congenital is rare and is due to a mutation in the gene responsible for the production of lactase. This is discovered in infancy. Secondary intolerance is due to diseases that destroy the lining of the intestine. An example is celiac sprue. Another cause of secondary lactose intolerance can be caused by exposure to intestinal parasites such as giardia. The most prevalent cause is a deficiency of lactase. This varies among different ethnic groups. In some cultures dairy products are not consumed and this can lead to intolerance. If a person is deficient in lactase, but shows no symptoms, then this isn’t considered lactose intolerance.

Diagnosis of lactose intolerance starts by making a list of symptoms. Sometimes lactose intolerance is confused with other conditions such as milk allergy or irritable bowel syndrome. Your doctor can do several tests to determine if you really are lactose intolerant. These tests include the lactose tolerance test, the hydrogen breath test and the stool acidity test. An elimination diet and a blood test are also used.

Treating lactose intolerance is accomplished by eliminating lactose from the diet. People must learn which foods to avoid. Some people can get away with just eating small amounts of lactose containing foods throughout the day. Some people can eat yogurt with no problem. Milk containing lactase is available. Also people can supplement lactase in the form of chewable tablets, or swallow tablets or capsules. Children and woman who need calcium in their diets can eat calcium rich foods such as greens and fish or can take calcium supplements. Supplementing vitamin D is also important.

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History of Lactose Intolerance

The information on enzyme-facts.com is not offered for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease or disorder nor have any statements herein been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We strongly encourage you to discuss topics of concern with your health care provider.

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