Lactose Intolerance – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which body cannot digest milk and dairy products. In the terms of biology, the body cannot digest lactose (a natural sugar in milk and dairy products). This is not a food allergy to milk. It is a different condition. This happens when lactose moves through the colon without proper digestion. Bloating, gas and belly pain are common symptoms of lactose intolerance. This condition is common among native African, Asian and South American adults. However, this condition is less common in European adults.

This condition is diagnosed using Lactose Hydrogen Breath Test. Milk and dairy products cause this problem. People suffering from this condition have to make some adjustments in their diets. This helps in avoiding discomfort. And, this also helps in getting enough calcium.

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

Small intestine produces an enzyme called lactose. This enzyme breaks down and digests lactose (milk and dairy products). Sometimes small intestine does not produce an adequate amount of lactose. This condition usually runs in families. Symptoms of this condition are experienced in teen or adult years. Small intestine stops producing lactase due to some short-term disease like stomach flu.

Similarly, lifelong diseases like cystic fibrosis can also cause small intestine stop producing lactase. In some cases, small intestine stops making lactase when a part of the intestine is removed surgically. This condition can be either temporary or permanent.

Cases are rare, but some newborns are born with lactose intolerance. They cannot eat any food with lactose. This condition is temporarily developed in premature babies. Once the small intestine starts producing lactase, the baby can digest lactose (milk and dairy products).

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

Depending on the amount of lactase produced by the intestine, this condition can be mild to severe. Symptoms of the lactose intolerance include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Rumbling or gurgling sound in belly
  • Diarrhea or loose stools
  • Throwing up

Diagnosis and Treatment

Avoid milk and dairy products for several days. If you stop experiencing symptoms of lactose intolerance, start adding milk and dairy products in your diet. If symptoms of lactose intolerance come back, you are likely to suffer from this condition. You should visit a doctor for lactose hydrogen breath test. when you visit a doctor, he will ask some questions about the symptoms you are experiencing. Blood sugar test or lactose hydrogen breath test confirms lactose intolerance. This condition cannot be cured. You can control symptoms by avoiding foods causing this problem. Some dietary supplements can help in digesting lactose products.

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