Lactose intolerance comes from the inability to digest lactose, a sugar in dairy products and milk. When you have lactose intolerance, your digestive system reacts to lactose which causes various digestive symptoms. You’ll have noticeable symptoms that are hard to ignore when suffering from lactose intolerance.
Lactose malabsorption is another condition easily confused with lactose intolerance. Lactose malabsorption is caused by the inability to break down or absorb lactose molecules in the gastrointestinal tract. Around 65% of individuals worldwide cannot break down or absorb lactose.
Lactose intolerance, conversely, refers to your body lacking sufficient lactose enzymes to break down lactose sugar. So, different intolerance levels depend on the individual when you have lactose intolerance. Some people can ingest a cup of milk without symptoms, while others can’t take a spoon of milk without suffering from symptoms.
Depending on your tolerance level, it’s common for most people with lactose intolerance to manage their condition without having to give up dairy products altogether. Lactase enzymes are produced in the small intestines. If lactose is unabsorbed, it’s then pushed to the large intestines, where it ferments and causes digestive symptoms that most people with lactose intolerance suffer from.
What causes lactose intolerance?
You’ll suffer from lactose intolerance when your small intestines do not produce enough lactase enzymes. In your small intestines is where most of your nutrients are absorbed. Your small intestines break down nutrients into molecules, which can then pass through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. When something isn’t absorbed in your small intestines, it’s pushed to your large intestines.
Usually, the lactase enzyme breaks down milk sugar into galactose and glucose. These two simple sugars are then absorbed into the bloodstream through the lining of your intestines. However, if you have insufficient lactase, your body skips this process.
When you’re suffering from lactose intolerance, it means that your small intestines produce insufficient lactase enzymes. This means those undigested milk sugars are pushed to the large intestines. In the large intestines, they produce more water na gas. This triggers your large intestines to secrete extra fluid so that they can be passed along.
The gas produced in the large intestines is from the bacteria in your colon, which ferments your undigested milk sugars. This often results in stomach pain, diarrhoea, and gas. The good news in relation to lactose intolerance is the availability of over-the-counter lactase pills.
Before taking any dairy products, you can take these pills containing lactase enzymes, and you’ll be saved from a myriad of uncomfortable symptoms.
How do I know if I’m lactose intolerant?
Symptoms of lactose intolerance vary from one individual to the next and their intolerant level. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Intestinal gas
- Stomach pain
- Stomach gurgling
Lactose intolerance symptoms stem from undigested lactose in the large intestines. However, food takes around 10 hours to reach your large intestines. You may experience these symptoms a day or two after consuming lactose-containing products.
However, some people can get the symptoms as fast as two hours after drinking milk or eating cheese. Food can also take about 24-36 hours to travel through your large intestines. So this means that you can keep experiencing these symptoms for quite a while after eating the trigger food.
What foods to avoid if you are lactose intolerant?
When lactose intolerant, you must avoid all foods containing lactose. Fortunately, these days you can find lactose-free products on shelves in the grocery store. You should avoid goat’s and cow’s milk products. This includes fresh milk and byproducts like cheeses.
You will also find that some byproducts don’t contain much lactose, and you can consume them comfortably, like hard cheeses. You will find that fresh milk contains more lactose than hard cheese. However, you need to know your tolerance level; a doctor can help you.
People who are overly sensitive to lactose cannot even consume a sprinkle of cheese in the foods. This means they should therefore opt for lactose-free products. To make this easier, you can choose to shop in the vegan section regarding products like milk in cheese. There, you’ll find plant-based products that won’t cause your symptoms.
Check food labels, especially when shopping for processed products. You’ll find that lactose is added to processed products, including soups, snacks, and salads. You should also let your doctor know your intolerance because you may find lactose in prescription drugs.
Lactose intolerance testing
The best way to manage lactose intolerance is to know whether you have it. We consume various meals throughout the day. This can make it challenging to know which food is causing intolerance symptoms. However, an Intolerance Test will help put things into perspective.
This test checks for more than one food intolerance, giving you a chance to know any other food intolerances you could be suffering from. All you have to do is order the test online, which will arrive within three days.
You can then read the instructions on how to take the sample, then take a small blood sample by pricking your finger and sending it back to the labs for testing. Upon arrival at the labs, you can expect the results within seven days of their arrival. In the lab, scientists will test your sample against many other foods to check for intolerance, and you’ll get your results via email.
An intolerance test checks for IgG4 antibodies through ELISA testing. This testing wil then give accurate results on your food intolerances so you can manage them. Since food intolerance can be hard to diagnose, considering the symptoms occur hours after exposure, an Intolerance Test is best.
Risk factors of lactose intolerance
Some factors can make you more likely to suffer from lactose intolerance. These include:
- Ethnicity: African, Hispanic, and American Indian descent individuals are more lieu to suffer from lactose intolerance.
- Age: Lactose intolerance is more common in adults compared to young babies. Most people with the intolerance develop it in their adult years.
- Small intestines disease: Problems affecting the small intestines can cause the development of lactose intolerance. These include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and bacterial overgrowth.
- Premature birth: Babies born prematurely can have reduced lactase levels because of the underdevelopment of lactase-producing cells. These cells often develop late in the third trimester.
- Some cancer treatments: Cancer radiation therapy in your stomach and intestinal complications from chemotherapy can increase your risk of developing lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is quite common worldwide and affects a number of people. The best way to manage this condition is to know whether it’s lactose intolerance or some other food intolerance by taking an Intolerance Test. If you’re lactose intolerant, you’ll need to avoid lactose-containing products at all costs. You can talk to a dietitian if you’re having difficulty changing your diet, and they’ll help you.