Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products, the most common carbohydrate found in milk. For some people, it is impossible or tough to digest this type of sugar as their small intestine is unable to process and break the sugar down into simpler forms that can later be absorbed into the bloodstream. This happens because the body lacks an intestinal enzyme called lactase, which is usually found naturally in the small intestine and has a function of breaking down lactose into easily digestible sugars called glucose and galactose. It is estimated that over five percent of the world’s population suffers from some degree of lactose intolerance and cannot digest the milk sugar lactose.
Signs And Symptoms That Indicate Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance usually causes unpleasant abdominal pain, followed by cramping, bloating and release of gas. It is important to identify the symptoms specifically as lactose intolerance by monitoring the symptoms and tracking eating patterns. Once it is diagnosed, the intolerance is not an unsolvable problem. On of the first symptoms is abdominal pain that you cannot connect to any other cause or medical condition. The recommended thing to do if you experience persistent abdominal discomfort is to monitor what you eat and how your body reacts to eating dairy products so you can connect your symptoms to lactose intolerance.
The next sign that indicates potential lactose intolerance is passing gas (flatulence) while feeling very bloated along with nausea and possible diarrhea. The last symptoms are not as frequent but are easily connected to the inability to digest lactose if you are experiencing no other health problems. It is quite important to monitor your food intake keeping in mind that symptoms usually occur up to two hours after drinking milk or eating dairy products.
Difference Between Milk Allergy and Lactose Intolerance
Make sure you understand the difference in being allergic to milk and being unable to digest lactose, as these are different medical conditions. An allergy to milk might mean you feel a slight twitch in your mouth, or even get a rash after drinking it. Thus, allergy to cow’s milk is manifested as a reaction of the immune system to the proteins of milk, whereas lactose intolerance is a problem of the gastrointestinal track – the digestive system suffers from a lactase deficiency and is unable to process lactose. Milk allergies usually occur early in life, while lactose intolerance occurs more often in adults.
There is no treatment of the cause of lactose intolerance. The recommended approach is to change the diet and eliminate foods that contain lactose. However, as small amounts are not harmful, even if you find yourself unable to digest lactose, there is no need to give up consuming dairy products as they are a valuable source of calcium and other nutrients that the body requires to function properly. Search for products that have a reduced quantity of lactose. Just make sure you listen to your body and understand what amount your body can handle. As an alternative, you can consume soy-based products that make healthy choices.