Lactose is a kind of sugar that is commonly found in milk. The inability of the body to metabolize these sugars is known as lactose intolerance. This occurs due to the fact that the intestinal system lacks an enzyme named lactase, which causes the lactose to remain un-absorbed by the body. This passes on into the colon and gets fermented, producing gas. The gas, in turn, produces a number of abdominal problems such as bloating, flatulence, and abdominal cramps. This could happen, not only when milk is drunk, but also when foods containing milk are drunk or eaten. Explore the following pointers to know the main causes and symptoms of Lactose Intolerance.
Causes And Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance
Lactose is a compounded sugar that is made up of two smaller sugars – galactose and glucose. Before lactose is absorbed by the body, it should first be split in the intestines, into galactose and glucose, which would then be absorbed by the lining of the small intestine. The enzyme named lactase is what enables this splitting of lactose. A deficiency of this enzyme leads to lactose intolerance. The following are the reasons why there is lactase deficiency in the body at times:
A mutation in the gene that produces lactase could be the culprit here. In this event, lactase is absent from birth and the symptoms begin soon after birth. This form of lactose intolerance is very rare.
Secondary causes involve cases where the lining of the intestine has been damaged due to a particular disease and the lactase enzyme is destroyed as well.
This is also called adult-type hypolactasia, wherein as a person grows into adulthood, there could be a deficiency in lactase. Interestingly, lactase deficiency is not the same as lactose intolerance. People with mild to moderate lactase deficiencies may not show symptoms. Diagnosis of lactose intolerance occurs only after symptoms persist.
Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance
- Abdominal pain.
- Abdominal bloating.
- Abdominal distention.
Diagnosis Of Lactose Intolerance
This is a common way to self-diagnosis, by eliminating milk and milk products from the diet and checking whether the symptoms persist.
A person is given a large quantity of milk in the morning and nothing else is ingested for the next few hours. If the person in lactose intolerant, the symptoms will start showing up.
When a person is lactose intolerant, this is confirmed by analyzing the amount of methane or hydrogen present in the breath. The amount is roughly proportionate to the deficiency of lactase in the system.
Blood Glucose Test
For this test, lactose in ingested after fasting overnight and blood samples are drawn and tested for glucose levels. If the levels of glucose in the blood are reasonably high, it would mean that the intestines are able to break down lactose.
Stool Acidity Test
This test is used to test for lactase deficiency in very young children or infants. After orally taking a small amount of glucose, stool samples are tested for acidity.
This is the most direct test to measure lactase levels in the intestine. This can be done either by means of an endoscopy or by swallowing special capsules that pass on into the intestine.
Treatment Of Lactose Intolerance
Changes In Diet
Reducing the amount of lactose taken in food is the most obvious way to treat this condition. This would mean eliminating milk, curd, cheese, and even ice creams, apart from other milk-based foods.
Lactase enzyme supplement capsules can be taken while taking milk-based foods.
This involves slowly increasing milk based foods, until the sufferer is able to handle higher amounts of lactose without developing any symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Vitamin D And Calcium Supplements
Calcium and Vitamin D deficiency is common in those suffering from lactose intolerance, since milk and milk products are the primary dietary sources of calcium. Therefore, supplements are recommended in order to prevent these deficiencies.