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What Is The Fuss About Lactose Intolerance?

Two words – Lactose Intolerance!

Many wonder how anyone can be allergic to something as simple as milk. After all it is something we have consumed from day one. But then, it is not milk which creates a problem. A type of sugar found in milk called lactose causes this type of intolerance.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance happens when the small intestine does not make enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose. When it moves through the large intestine without being digested, it causes symptoms like gas, aches, bloating, etc.

Very common in adults, it occurs more in people of Asian, African, South American and Native American descent than among Europeans. Premature babies too can develop this problem but it usually goes away as they grow up.

Lactose intolerance is different from milk allergy. Allergy to milk is an adverse immune reaction to alpha S1-casein (protein) found in milk. While milk consumption becomes difficult for people suffering from this problem, they can still have other milk products like paneer, cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, ghee, etc.

dairy products

Types of Lactose Intolerance

There are four types of lactose intolerance:

  • Primary – happens when amount of lactase declines as people age.
  • Secondary – happens due to infections, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or any other disease of the intestine.
  • Developmental – occurs in premature babies, improves gradually.
  • Congenital – a rare genetic disorder in which little or no lactose is made from birth.

Lactose Intolerance Symptoms

Symptoms range from mild to severe and depends on how much lactose can your body make. Problems begin after 30 minutes to 2 hours of consuming milk. While it may happen after having a milk product as well, they can be gradually consumed again after a couple of days of avoidance.

Few such symptoms of lactose intolerance are:

  • Bloating
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Cramps
  • Gurgling or rumbling sounds in the abdomen
  • Gas
  • Loose stools or diarrhea
  • Vomits

How is Lactose Intolerance Diagnosed?

Many times you might fall sick after consuming a glass of milk or having a milk product. It is advised to avoid them for few days and consume milk again. If you again fall sick after having milk, it might be time to see a doctor. There are few ways to know whether someone has an intolerance to milk or not:

  • Lactose tolerance test
  • Hydrogen breath test
  • Stool acidity test

How is Lactose Intolerance Treated?

Though there is no cure for lactose intolerance, with some trial and error, you may be able to include all milk products like paneer, ghee, yogurt, buttermilk, lassi, etc. in your diet, and maybe some quantity of milk. One can easily get ample calcium and other nutrients from these products and stay fit as a fiddle for the rest of their lives!