Lactose Intolerance : Everything You Need to Know
Published on: 29-Jun-2022
10 min read
Updated on : 28-Nov-2023
Lactose Intolerance : Everything You Need to Know
Have you ever had stomach pain, diarrhoea, or a bloated stomach after consuming dairy products or drinking milk? If so, you might be lactose intolerant.
Have a deep dive into how lactose is the cause of all these problems.
What Is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance can be a discomforting condition when one doesn't know what exactly it is.
It is a digestive disorder caused due to the inability to digest lactose, medically known as "Lactose Malabsorption". This condition occurs if your body doesn't make enough lactase, an enzyme required to digest lactose. Lactase is present in the lining of the small intestine, where it splits milk sugar (also called lactose) into two simple sugars "glucose and galactose."
These simple sugars can then be absorbed into your bloodstream for use by the body. So essentially, "lactose deficiency" means that your body doesn't produce enough lactase to fully digest all of the lactose in milk or any dairy products you eat.
Milk is one of the most popular beverages in North America. About 81 per cent of people consume milk regularly. For some reason, millions of Americans can't digest a certain sugar(lactose) in milk and milk products. Lactose intolerance is nature's way of saying, "no more milk for you".
Table Of Contents
1. Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergy - Are They Same?
2. Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
3. Causes and Types of Lactose Intolerance
5. The Final Say
Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergy - Are They Same?
Lactose intolerance is caused by insufficient lactase, which is needed to break down lactose.
Milk allergy is a food allergy caused by an allergic reaction to the protein in milk. Although you may be sensitive to other types of milk, such as soy, cow milk is the most common cause of milk allergy.
In brief, lactose intolerance and milk allergy may be caused by the same food product but are different.
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is caused due to digestive problems or digestive disorders. The symptoms of lactose intolerance may appear 30 to 60 minutes after eating the food. If lactose intolerance is not managed correctly, it may end up causing several problems like-
The severity of symptoms varies based on the amount of lactose you can tolerate and the amount of consumption.
Diarrhoea occurs due to undigested lactose in your small intestine, which causes water to move into your digestive tract.
Once it reaches your colon, the lactose is fermented by the bacteria in your gut, forming short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and gas. This causes bloating, gas and pain. You're generally not affected unless you consume a lot of lactose or have another condition worsened by the digestive irritation caused by lactose intolerance.
Causes and Types of Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance may or may not be temporary or permanent. It entirely depends on the underlying cause. Lactose intolerance is mainly developed and inherited in adults. As for young children, it is often caused due to infections.
There are three types of lactose intolerances-
Primary Lactose Intolerance
The most frequent lactose intolerance is caused by a reduction in lactase synthesis as people age. As a result, your ability to absorb lactose gradually deteriorates over time. Because it is more common in some parts of the population than others, this type of lactose intolerance may be partly inherited.
Secondary Lactose Intolerance
Secondary lactose intolerance happens when other conditions like Crohn's disease, celiac disease, chemotherapy, ulcerative colitis, and age affect the small intestine, where lactase is produced. In addition, because of inflammation in your gut walls, there is a decline in the production of lactase.
Congenital Lactose Intolerance
Congenital Lactose Intolerance is a rare and inherited condition that occurs in newborns. This condition occurs when both parents possess a gene mutation for Congenital Lactose Intolerance because infants cannot digest breast milk. It can be a lifetime condition and prove fatal if not treated promptly.
Development of Lactose Intolerance
The development of Lactose Intolerance also happens in infants. However, it's only noted in premature newborns whose digestive systems have not fully grown, and it develops symptoms such as digestive distress. This issue usually goes away as the baby grows older, but in the meanwhile, your newborn may require lactose-free formula instead of breast milk.
Opt For Lactose-Free Products
Often, changing our diet can be the simple answer to some very severe problems.
The products we consume daily, like yoghurt, ice cream, butter, cream, curds, cottage cheese, goat milk, cream cheese, mashed potatoes, etc., primarily contain lactose.
Lactose can be found in foods that contain some dairy as an ingredient, like-
- Recipes with creams and white sauce like Alfredo pasta and
- Packaged food items such as biscuits and cookies and baked products
- Soups and sauces
- Meats that have been processed, such as pre-sliced ham and sausages
- Dishes that are already prepared
- Sauces and gravies for spaghetti
- Sweets and custards, potato chips, almonds, and flavoured tortillas
Examining the ingredient list may determine whether a product contains dairy. Added milk or dairy products may be labelled using the following terms:
- Milk Solids
- Milk Powder
- Whey Protein
- Milk Casein
- Milk Sugar
- Malted Milk
- Dry Milk Solids
- Sour Cream
- Whey Protein Concentrate
- Milk Byproducts
Switch to a Natural Option
Several natural treatments may decrease the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
1. Enzyme Supplements
Lactose digestion may be aided by taking enzyme supplements. Supplementing with lactase enzyme helps to prevent symptoms of lactose intolerance. The supplement that medical supervisors generally prescribe is lactase comes in a tablet or a liquid form to be taken after consuming milk or dairy product.
2. Reduce Lactose Consumption
Despite your body's lactase deficit, regular lactose exposure may allow your gut bacteria to manufacture enough lactase on its own to alleviate lactose intolerance symptoms. To prevent it, avoid lactose in your diet.
3. Probiotics and Prebiotics
Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms, whereas prebiotics is fibres that act as food for these germs, nourishing the beneficial bacteria in your stomach. Both probiotics and prebiotics have been proven to improve symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus strains, which are commonly found in probiotic yoghurts and supplements, are regarded to be the most effective probiotics.
4. Lactose-Free Alternative
Some dairy products can be made lactose-free by breaking down lactose into glucose and galactose during manufacturing. Such products are labelled "lactose-free." Products made from plants such as almond milk, coconut yoghurt, soy ice cream, and cashew cheese are naturally free of lactose. Today for those who are intolerant to lactose, there are many ways you can still enjoy your favourite dairy product.
The Final Say
The disaccharide sugar lactose, present in milk, is said to cause lactose intolerance when it cannot be adequately absorbed—usually, a lack of lactase results in lactose intolerance. Constipation, bloating, and diarrhoea are some common signs of lactose intolerance. Numerous people have lactose intolerance, and there are many simple dietary changes you should adopt to avoid or reduce symptoms.
1. How do I know if I'm lactose intolerant?
Lactose intolerance symptoms can appear 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming milk or dairy products, including nausea, cramps, gas, bloating, or diarrhoea. This is because the body does not create enough lactase to break down lactose.
2. What triggers lactose intolerance?
Lactose malabsorption is the root cause of lactose intolerance. Your small intestine can't break down all the lactose you consume if you have lactose malabsorption because it produces an insufficient amount of lactase.
3. What foods contain lactose?
Lactose is mainly found in milk and dairy products such as ice cream, yoghurt, cheese, cow's milk, and goat's milk. Additionally, it can be seen as an ingredient in various meals and drinks, including bread, cereal, lunchmeats, salad dressings, and baking mix. Read labels and check for ingredients like yoghurt, milk, or cheese.
4. Do I have to avoid all milk products if I am lactose intolerant?
In general, you should avoid all milk products. However, curd and buttermilk can occasionally be consumed since they contain lactobacillus bacteria that aid digestion. Before introducing any item into your diet, you should consult an expert.
5. Is there any treatment for lactose intolerance?
You may find it easier to digest dairy products with the help of lactase enzyme tablets or drops (Lactaid, etc.). Tablets can be taken right before a meal or snack. However, you must always consult a doctor before beginning any medication.
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