Those who are lactose intolerant are unable to digest lactose. Lactose intolerance is sometimes confused with food allergy to milk, but they are two different things. Lactose is the natural sugar that is found in milk and dairy products, and those who are intolerant to lactose cannot digest the natural sugar easily.
Challenges faced by those who are lactose intolerant
Uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating and gas is caused when lactose moves through the small intestine and does not get digested easily. While some of them cannot have any milk product, others can consume dairy products but in small quantities. The problem occurs mostly in adults. Those who are intolerant to lactose need to take the required calcium in their diet through other forms of food and dietary supplements.
Foods that contain lactose
Dairy products that include ice cream and milk are common foods that have high lactose content. Whey, milk solids, and milk byproducts also contain lactose. Some foods such as candy, cereals, breads, and bakery foods may also contain small quantities of dairy products. Lactose may also be present in tablets that help to ease gas or stomach acids, birth control pills, and some over-the-counter medicines.
Causes and symptoms
Lactase is an enzyme found in the small intestine that helps to break down and digest the lactose. Those who are lactose intolerant do not produce enough of the enzyme. The symptoms usually occur during teen and adulthood, and the problem is mostly genetic. There could be other reasons, too, why the body may stop making lactase. Stomach flu, cystic fibrosis, or a surgery that removes a part of the small intestine could be the reason why the body may stop producing lactase. Newborn children may also be lactose intolerant, but this is a rare case. The symptom takes around 30 minutes to 2 hours to show after one consumes a dairy product. The indications could be pain or camps, bloating, vomiting, loose stools or diarrhea, gas, or a rumbling sound in the belly.
Diagnosis and treatment of Lactose intolerance
You will be asked to avoid taking any milk product for some time so that the doctor can check if you still complain of the symptoms. A blood sugar or a hydrogen breathe test can also confirm the test. There is no permanent Lactose intolerance treatment, but you can avoid dairy products to treat it. Soy milk can be a good substitute for regular milk. Most people are able to eat yogurt even if they are lactose intolerant. Dietary supplements can be taken to help digest lactose. To ensure that those who are lactose intolerant get enough nutrients, especially calcium that is found in milk, one should take calcium-rich food such as almonds, broccoli, soy milk, tofu, fortified juices, cereals, and turnip greens.
How is Lactose intolerance different from milk allergy?
The major difference between Lactose intolerance and milk allergy is that the former is a digestive condition whereas the latter is an immune response. The signs may be similar like diarrhea and abdominal pain when one drinks milk. Dry and itchy rash and symptoms such as hives and runny nose may be an indication that one is allergic to some protein found in cow’s milk.