WHAT IS LACTOSE INTOLERANCE?
Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest lactose.
Lactose is a sugar that is naturally found in milk and milk products, like cheese or ice cream.
Lactose intolerance happens when your small intestine does not make enough of a digestive enzyme called lactase. Lactase enzyme breaks down the lactose in milk so your body can absorb it.
People who are lactose intolerant have unpleasant symptoms after eating or drinking milk or milk products. These symptoms include bloating, diarrhea and gas.
REASONS/ CAUSES OF LACTOSE INTOLERANCE
Lactose intolerance occurs when your small intestine doesn't produce enough of lactase enzyme to digest milk sugar (lactose).
Normally, lactase turns milk sugar into two simple sugars — glucose and galactose — which are absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining.
If you're lactase deficient, the undigested lactose passes into your colon. Bacteria in your colon break down the lactose and create fluid and gas.
This extra fluid and gas causes lactose intolerance symptoms.
SYMPTOMS OF LACTOSE INTOLERANCE
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The signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance usually begin from 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose. Common signs and symptoms include:
Your symptoms may be mild or severe, depending on how much lactose you have.WHAT ARE THE 4 TYPES OF LACTOSE INTOLERANCE?
- Primary Lactose Intolerance (caused by diminishing lactase production in your small intestine).
Most people develop lactose intolerance as they grow from childhood into adulthood. The most common type of lactose intolerance, primary lactose intolerance, happens because you gradually stop producing lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose. Your gut sensitivity can also change over time.
- Secondary Lactose Intolerance(caused by injury or disease that damages your small intestine).
This form of lactose intolerance occurs when your small intestine decreases lactase production after an illness, injury or surgery involving your small intestine. Diseases associated with secondary lactose intolerance include intestinal infection, celiac disease, bacterial overgrowth and Crohn's disease.
Treatment of the underlying disorder might restore lactase levels and improve signs and symptoms, though it can take time.
- Congenital Lactose Intolerance(caused by lactase deficiency present at birth).
Congenital lactase deficiency, also called congenital alactasia, is a disorder in which infants are unable to break down the lactose in breast milk or formula. This form of lactose intolerance results in very severe diarrhea. If affected infants are not given a lactose-free infant formula, they may experience severe dehydration and weight loss.
- Developmental Lactose Intolerance(caused by premature birth, when the small intestine is underdeveloped).
Developmental lactose intolerance occurs in infants, too. It’s typically only seen in premature babies, who are born before their digestive system is fully developed, and it causes symptoms like digestive distress.
This condition typically resolves on its own as the baby grows, but in the meantime, your infant may need lactose-free formula rather than breast milk.
DIAGNOSIS OF LACTOSE INTOLERANCE
Your doctor can confirm the diagnosis by conducting one or more of the following tests:
Hydrogen breath test- After you drink a liquid that contains high levels of lactose, your doctor measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath at regular intervals. Breathing out too much hydrogen indicates that you aren't fully digesting and absorbing lactose.
Lactose tolerance test- Two hours after drinking a liquid that contains high levels of lactose, you'll undergo blood tests to measure the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. If your glucose level doesn't rise, it means your body isn't properly digesting and absorbing the lactose-filled drink.
- Stool acidity test- Healthcare providers use this test for small children and infants. After feeding a child lactose, they’ll take a poop (stool) sample and analyse the content. Levels of lactic acid and other by-products in the sample can show whether or not the body is absorbing the lactose.
TREATMENT OF LACTOSE INTOLERANCE
While there is no cure for lactose intolerance, several strategies can help manage the condition effectively:
Dietary Modifications: Limiting or avoiding lactose-containing foods and beverages can significantly reduce symptoms. Many lactose-free or lactose-reduced products are available, making it easier to enjoy dairy alternatives.
MYTHS OF LACTOSE INTOLERANT DIET
Reducing the dairy products doesn't mean you can't get enough calcium. Calcium is found in many other foods, such as:
- Broccoli and leafy green vegetables
- Calcium-fortified products, such as cereals and juices
- Milk substitutes, such as soy milk and rice milk
- Almonds, Brazil nuts and dried beans
HOW CAN ONE ENJOY CHEESE ON A LACTOSE INTOLERANT DIET?
Enjoying cheese while on a lactose-intolerant diet used to be challenging a decade ago, but now there are several options available that can allow you to indulge in this beloved dairy product.
Buy Plant Based Cheese Alternatives, with the rise in popularity of plant-based diets, there is now a wide range of dairy free cheese alternatives made from ingredients like cashew nuts or coconut. While they may not have the exact taste and texture of traditional cheese, they can still provide a satisfying cheesy flavour to your dishes.
Remember, it's essential to listen to your body and determine your personal tolerance level for lactose. Every individual's tolerance to lactose varies, so experiment with different options and observe how your body responds. Consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice and guidance on managing lactose intolerance and incorporating cheese into your diet.