A little stomach discomfort and many jump to the conclusion they must be lactose intolerant. I mean milk and dairy are the new bad guys for digestive issues, right? But before you diagnose yourself to be lactose intolerant let’s investigate the symptoms and make sure that something else isn’t the problem.
Lactose is a sugar that is found in milk and dairy products. Products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and even breast milk. The enzyme lactase occurs naturally in the body and breaks down lactose sugar during digestion. When you are lactose intolerant your body does not absorb this lactose sugar properly due to low or non-existent lactase in your small intestine. When this sugar isn’t digested it becomes fermented by the normal gut bacteria in the large intestine. Causing you all kinds of discomfort.
Lactose intolerance can also be called a milk intolerance.
Signs & Symptoms
- Nausea, vomiting
- Abdominal Cramps
The symptoms should correlate to the amount of lactose you have consumed. So, the more lactose the worse they symptoms.
Lactose intolerance can appear at any age, but generally gets worse as you age.
Symptoms should appear 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose.
- Age – The older you get the less lactase enzyme your body produces.
- Genetics – More likely in people of African, Asian, Hispanic and American Indian descent.
- Premature birth
- Celiac Disease
- Crohn’s Disease
- Cancer Treatment
Types of Lactose Intolerance
Congenital Lactose Intolerance – This is very rare, this is when a child is born with this condition. Both parents must have the recessive gene or order for the baby to be affected.
Secondary Lactose Intolerance – This is a temporary intolerance when you are recovering from an infection. Antibiotics can mess with your good gut bacteria. This can then temporarily stop good digestion. If you notice an intolerance check the medications you have been taking along with any infections you may have had. This hopefully is just a temporary thing.
Primary Lactose Intolerance – Lactose intolerance can develop overtime as lactase activity declines as we age.
Lactose Breath Test – This is a test that detects the hydrogen levels in the breath after consuming foods that contain lactose.
Blood Test – This is a blood draw taken two hours after drinking a lactose intense drink.
Stool Acidity – A stool sample can be examined to determine if your are lactose intolerant. This method is used more on young children and infants.
There is no cure but dietary modifications will help. And there are over-the-counter lactase enzyme supplements that can ease symptoms. You can even add a supplement to your milk that will break down the lactose before you consume it.
There more options than every before for products with low or no lactose, so being lactose intolerant is a condition that is easier to live with than it used to be.
A milk allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance even though symptoms are similar. A milk allergy affects a small percentage of children; 2.5% of children under 3 years old. Signs of a milk allergy should occur from a few minutes to a couple of hours after consumption. Symptoms can include hives, runny nose, diarrhea, vomiting or irritability.
Sources: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lactose-intolerance/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374238 https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-cant-miss-signs-child-lactose-intolerant/ https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/feeding-your-baby/milk-allergy-in-infants.aspx https://www.foodallergy.org/common-allergens/milk/does-your-baby-have-a-milk-allergy