Lactose intolerance- symptoms, causes, types, and treatment

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The rumbling sound in the stomach, the gas, and the abdominal cramps can this be a reason? 

Lactose intolerance – what is lactose?

Lactose is sugar that is found in milk. The body produces an enzyme called lactase in order to break down the sugar. 

Lactase production happens in the small intestine this helps people digest milk products. 

Lactose intolerance occurs when there is a digestive disorder caused because of the inability to digest lactose. 

This is usually caused when the body doesn’t produce enough enzymes required to digest lactose. 

People with lactose intolerance experience digestive problems as they consume the dairy product.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance? 

If lactose intolerance is not managed properly, it leads to several digestive problems. 

The most commonly exhibited symptoms of lactose intolerance are 

In some cases, people may even experience lower belly pain or constipation. 

All the symptoms are exhibited only when the lactose is undigested and present in the small intestine. 

Once it reaches the colon, it gets fermented in the gut. Only during this process, the undigested lactose causes the above-mentioned symptoms. 

Even though the symptoms tend to last for a short period of time the severe 80 of the symptoms depend on how much lactose is consumed by a person. 

Types of lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is broadly classified into four types

  • Primary lactose intolerance
  • Secondary lactose intolerance
  • Congenital lactose intolerance and 
  • Development lactose intolerance. 

Primary lactose intolerance is the most commonly found type of lactose intolerance. These types of intolerance are usually acquired by genetics. 

Secondary lactose intolerance develops when there is another underlying problem with the small intestine. 

Due to the presence of an underlying disease, the wall of a person’s gut is inflated and the production of lactase is reduced. 

Congenital lactose intolerance is often found in newborn babies. The congenital lactose intolerance is rare and is genetically inherited if both the parents of the baby are lactose intolerant

Developmental lactose intolerance is commonly found in babies. This is specifically prevalent in babies who were born before their digestive system is fully developed. This in turn will cause lactose intolerance. 

How lactose intolerance is diagnosed?

Some of the ways in which a medical professional would test for lactose intolerance are:

1. Lactose intolerance test

This test measures the blood sugar after lactose is injected into the blood. If a person has lactose intolerance, then there would be no response as the body cannot break down lactose.

2. Genetic test

Doctors would check for genetic causes triggering lactose intolerance. But in case a person has secondary lactose intolerance, they would receive a negative.

3. Stool acidity test

This test is often used with infants and newborn babies. This test measures stool and acidity levels. When there are low levels of Ph then it indicates lactose intolerance. 

4. Hydrogen breath test

In this test, the hydrogen in the breath is measured after lactose intake. If the results show high levels of hydrogen, it indicated digestive problems.

A doctor may choose one of the several tests to check for lactose intolerance in a patient.

How do we treat lactose intolerance?

A doctor would recommend a few dietary changes and medications to treat lactose intolerance. Some of the ways to treat lactose intolerance are:

  • Taking enzyme supplements
  • Keeping away from lactose exposure
  • Probiotics and prebiotics
  • Consuming more food to replace the nutrients from milk.

All dairy products have lactose. Eliminating them is to avoid symptoms. In some worse cases, a doctor may recommend supplement and gut bacteria-boosting foods to improve health and manage symptoms.

To sum up

Lactose intolerance is caused by lactase deficiency. Many people around the world are lactose tolerant. Making changes to the diet and limiting the intake of lactose will help manage the condition. 

A doctor would suggest a diet that would provide nutrients that we skip while cutting down milk. Medications are also prescribed if there are severe symptoms. Therefore, it is always best to consult a medical professional for more advice.


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The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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