Are You Lactose Intolerant?

Stomach pain, bloating or diarrhoea – if these symptoms show up after drinking milk or consuming milk products, lactose intolerance can be the cause. The body is unable to digest milk sugar called lactose. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s population is affected by lactose intolerance.

Lactose Intolerance Is Not A Disease

Can you be intolerant to milk but not cheese?
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Lactose is a type of sugar that can be found in dairy products, bread, ready meals, salad dressings, seasonings and reduced-fat foods. It is broken down by an enzyme called lactase in the small intestine. If there is little or no lactase in the small intestine, lactose is transported to the large intestine and fermented by bacteria.

This leads to gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas and diarrhoea. In most cases, Lactose sensitivity is not dangerous to health, it is just annoying. Milk sugar is often well tolerated in small quantities.

The individual limit depends on the extent of lactase deficiency. Those affected have to find out for themselves how much milk sugar they can tolerate. Lactose senstivity is therefore a food intolerance and should not be confused with milk protein allergy. People with a milk protein allergy have to do without milk protein completely.

The Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

How long does it take for lactose intolerance symptoms to go away?
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The symptoms typically appear fifteen minutes to about one and a half hours after consuming milk or milk products. These may be 

  • Bloating
  • Bowel Sounds
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Rumbling In The Intestine
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Painful Bowel Movements
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Depressive Moods
  • Dizziness

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

Causes of Lactose Intolerance
© Evi-Ed

Lactase deficiency can have different causes. The most common form of lactose intolerance is Genetic. The small intestine usually produces a sufficient amount of lactase in childhood, but lactase activity decreases as we get older and there is an increasing intolerance to milk sugar.

Acquired lactose intolerance can be caused by gastrointestinal inflammation or chronic bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease. If the underlying disease is successfully treated in such cases, the small intestine recovers and the intolerance disappears.

In very few cases, lactase deficiency is congenital, which means there is no functional lactase in the intestine from birth.

Determining Lactose Intolerance

Determining Lactose Intolerance
© IMD Berlin

There are many ways to determine whether someone is intolerant. Three comparatively simple tests can even be carried out at home without any medical help. The self-test, diet test and exposure test.

If these three tests do not provide a sufficiently clear result, the doctor can also demonstrate intolerance with lactose tolerance test and the H2 breath test or the genetic test.

Alternatives to Replenish Calcium Needs

Alternatives to Replenish Calcium Needs
© Algaecal

Dairy products are considered the main calcium suppliers. If milk cannot be consumed due to intolerance, it is advised to change the diet to rice and soy dishes as well as lactose-free milk products. Calcium-rich mineral water is also a good milk substitute.

Even long-ripened cheese such as Emmental cheese can be consumed because it is easily digestible even for sensitive lactose intolerants because it contains almost no milk sugar. It is important that the diet should be balanced and includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, fibers, meat and sausage and a few sweets.

Suggested Read: What Causes Loose Motions?

The calcium needs must be fulfilled by alternative foods to avoid calcium deficiency. If you want to consume lactose based products from time to time despite intolerance, you can take the missing enzyme lactase as a tablet or capsule. Lactase preparations are available in pharmacies and health food stores.

The dosage should be coordinated with the doctor because lactose intolerance is a condition disorder and not an illness.

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