Health & Diet

All You Should Know About Lactose Intolerance

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People who suffer from lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest the lactose (sugar) in milk. When they consume dairy products, they have bloating, gas and diarrhea. This condition is usually harmless. However, its symptoms can be uncomfortable. A deficiency of lactase is usually responsible for lactose intolerance.

It is an enzyme which is produced by your small intestine. There are many people who have low levels of this enzyme, but they are still able to digest dairy products without any problems. However, in case you are lactose intolerant, your lactase deficiency leads to symptoms after you consume dairy foods. Luckily, most people who suffer from lactose intolerance can manage this condition without having to avoid all dairy products.

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Lactose intolerance happens when your small intestine does not produce enough of lactase (enzyme) to digest lactose (milk sugar). Normally, lactase converts milk sugar into glucose and galactose – two simple sugars – which are absorbed into your bloodstream through the intestinal lining. However, if you are lactase deficient, lactose from the food goes into the colon instead of being processed and absorbed. Normal bacteria interact with undigested lactose in the colon, which causes the symptoms of lactose intolerance. There are 3 types of this condition.

Primary lactose intolerance – the most common type of lactose intolerance. People with this type of lactose intolerance start life producing plenty of lactase. This is a necessity for babies, since they get all their nutrition from milk. When small children replace milk with normal foods, their production of lactase usually decreases, but stays high enough to digest the amount of dairy in a normal adult diet. However, in this type of lactose intolerance, the production of lactase falls off sharply, which makes milk products difficult to digest when child grows up.

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Primary lactose intolerance is normally genetically determined. Secondary lactose intolerance – This type of lactose intolerance happens when your small intestine decreases the production of lactase after being sick, surgery or injury which involves your small intestine. Treatment may restore lactase levels and also improve symptoms, although it can take time. Congenital (developmental) lactose intolerance – Even though it’s rare, it is possible for babies to be born with lactose intolerance which is caused by a complete absence of lactase activity.

This disorder is inheritance called autosomal recessive, which means that both father and mother must pass on the same gene variant for a baby to be affected. Premature infants can also have this condition because of an insufficient lactase level. Symptoms of this condition can be mild or severe. This depends on how much lactase your body produces. Symptoms normally start half an hour to 2 hours after eating or drinking milk or some other dairy product. In case you have lactose intolerance, your symptoms may include: throwing up, loose stools, diarrhea, gas, rumbling or gurgling sounds in the lower belly, cramps or pain in the lower belly and/or bloating.

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There is no way to boost your production of lactase. However, there are some things which you can do in order to avoid the discomfort of this condition. You can:

– Drink regular milk after you have added a powder or liquid to it in order to break down the lactose
– Drink and eat lactose-reduced milk and ice-cream
– Include small servings of dairy products in your meals
– Avoid large servings of milk or and other dairy products

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