What exactly is lactose intolerance? We hear about it all the time and see products in the grocery store for lactose free items. Lactose intolerance is when your body is unable to digest the sugar, lactose, that is found in dairy products and milk. Usually your small intestines produce and enzyme called lactase, which turns the lactose into fuel for your body. When you have this intolerance your body naturally doesn’t produce enough of the lactase. This causes the lactose to just stay in your stomach and not digest. This is when you start to see the symptoms that go along with lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is very common. It can happen in all ages from infancy to the elderly. Sixty-five percent of people have reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. About 30 million Americans have a lactose intolerance before age 20. Though it can happen to anyone of any age it is more common in adults than children. Other things that can add to the likelihood of getting lactose intolerant, can be your ethnic background. People of Asian, African, Native American and Hispanic background are more likely to develop lactose intolerance as a small child. Some places in Eastern Asia can have as much as ninety percent of people suffering from lactose intolerance. Why you can develop lactose intolerance at a later age is because your body can stop producing the lactase enzyme. Just in the US alone there are three million new cases of lactose intolerance a year.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance occur usually 30 minutes to 2 hours after you eat dairy products and how severe is dependant on how much you eat. There are a number of different symptoms that a person can experience. Each depends on the person and the amount of dairy eaten.
You could experience bloating, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and gas.
If you develop these symptoms shortly after eating dairy you may want to consult your doctor to make sure that this is what you truly have.
You want to be properly diagnosed so you can make sure you are treated appropriately. Treatment for this usually includes limiting how much dairy and lactose you take in daily. You can try and eat lactose free products. Sometimes if you develop an intolerance when you were a child you can grow out of the intolerance on your own.
Lactose intolerance can be frequently misdiagnosed. In infants it can be hard to distinguish between your child having lactose intolerance versus a milk allergy. Lact