Lactose intolerance – causes, symptoms and treatment

What is lactose intolerance?

milk-995051_1280Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products, and lactose intolerance is a condition whey your body cannot easily digest this sugar. Some people confuse lactose intolerance with allergy to milk, but keep in mind that these are two different conditions. Lactose intolerance is caused by small intestine does not produce enough lactose – an enzyme essential for properly breaking down lactose. Also, some people can easily digest certain dairy products and small amounts of milk, whereas the others cannot digest any dairy products whatsoever.

The symptoms of lactose intolerance

In the case of lactose intolerance, lactose moves through the colon without being properly digested. This causes a series of uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, gases and belly pain. Other symptoms which may appear include rumbling sounds inside the belly, loose stools, diarrhea and vomiting.

Risk groups

Due to differences in digestive systems, lactose intolerance is more common in adults than in children. Also, it has been noticed that this condition is more common in people of Asia, African, Native American and South American descent than in people from Europe.

Diagnosing lactose intolerance

In case you believe you are lactose intolerant, you can seek medical advice and help. This is also useful because the symptoms and the discomfort may be caused by other conditions. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and life habits, perform a physical exam and you may also be required to bring a stool sample. There are also two tests which are performed in order to confirm the diagnosis.

Hydrogen breath test

test-65624This test requires avoiding certain types of food, medicines and cigarettes before it is conducted. On the day of the test, liquid containing lactose is taken, and a patient breathes into a machine several times over a few hours, and the machine measures the hydrogen levels in breath.

Lactose tolerance test

This test requires avoiding drinking or eating anything the night before the test. At the test, liquid containing lactose is taken, and blood is tested every half an hour over the course of two hours.

Dealing with lactose intolerance

If you happen to be lactose intolerant, it is important to learn how to deal with it and live with the condition. Since you should avoid or even completely expel dairy products from your diet, it is important to properly make up for the calcium.

Changing eating habits

Not taking enough calcium is a number one problem of people who turn out to be lactose intolerant. However, there are plenty of natural sources of calcium other than milk and dairy. Foods rich in calcium are: almonds, sesame seeds, broccoli, kale, turnip greens and okra. Milk and dairy substitutes such as soy and almond milk, tofu products etc. are not only good source of calcium, but also a good substitute for dairy products and milk when it comes to the taste.

Dietary supplements

In addition to non-dairy food, you can also take calcium supplements in the form of pills. Also, you can take some calcium-fortified juices, cereals and soy products to further increase calcium intake.