Lactose Intolerance: Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors

Due to an increase in age, the level of lactase reduces and lactose intolerance occurs. Thus, you will become lactose intolerant later in life when increases in age.

What is Lactose Intolerant?

Lactose intolerance is the incapability for breaking down a type of natural sugar is known as lactose. Generally, lactose is present in dairy products such as milk, ice cream, paneer, curd, butter, yogurt, and many more. Lactose intolerance may cause many symptoms of gastrointestinal such as bloating, gas, and many more. These symptoms may occur for around 30 minutes to 2 hours after taking dairy products.

The main cause of Lactose Intolerant is a low level of lactase, an enzyme that is beneficial in digesting lactose in dairy foods. Thus, individuals with lactose intolerance are not able to fully digest the sugar (lactose) in milk which may cause bloating, diarrhea, and acidity after taking dairy products. Lactose intolerance may occur at any age either in kids or individuals. In several cases, lactose intolerance may trigger by a medical condition such as Crohn’s disease in some individuals, but in other people, it may develop without a particular primary cause.

There is less amount of enzyme are produced in the small intestine (lactase) is the main cause of lactose intolerance. If you have a low level of lactase then still be able for digesting dairy products. However, if you have a too-low level of lactase then you will become lactose intolerant which causes symptoms after taking milk products. You can consult with your doctor for the treatment of lactose intolerance.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerant

Generally, the symptoms and signs of lactose intolerance start from 30 minutes for about 2 hours after taking foods, which contain lactose. There are several symptoms of lactose are given below –

  1. Stomach Cramps
  2. Gas
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Nausea
  5. Vomiting

The signs of lactose intolerance may range from mild to severe in individuals. The severity of lactose intolerance can depend on how much lactose was taken and how much lactase an enzyme in any individual has really made.

Causes of Lactose Intolerant

When the small intestine does not produce sufficient lactase, and enzyme for digesting milk products then lactose intolerance occurs. Generally, lactase changes milk sugar into two main simple sugars – galactose and glucose that are absorbed in the bloodstream through the intestine lining. If you have a deficiency in lactase then lactose is present in your diet and moves into the colon instead of being absorbed and processed. Thus, normal bacteria interact with undigested lactose in the colon which causes the symptoms and signs of lactose intolerance.

Types of lactose intolerance

There are three types of lactose intolerance with different cases the deficiency in lactase are discussed below –

  1. Primary lactose intolerance – It is the most common type of lactose intolerance. Most of the people are born with sufficient lactase. Infants require the enzyme for digesting the milk of the mother. The amount of lactase in an individual may reduce because of an increase in the age of individuals that take a more diverse food and have less trust in milk. Primary lactose intolerance is more common in individuals with Hispanic, Asian, and African ancestry. In this type of lactose intolerance, the production of lactase reduces gradually by adulthood and making it difficult to digest milk products.
  2. Secondary lactose intolerance – This type of lactase intolerance occurs if the small intestine reduces the production of lactase after an injury or surgery, or any illness which involves the small intestine. Many diseases that are linked with secondary lactose intolerance such as celiac infection, Crohn’s disease, intestinal infection, bacterial overgrowth, and many more. The treatment of this type of lactose intolerance is by increasing the level of lactase, which improves symptoms and signs and it may take time.
  3. Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance – This type of lactose intolerance is rare for kids that are caused by a deficiency in lactase. Developmental or Congenital lactose intolerance is passed from generation to generation and is also known as autosomal recessive. In this type of lactose intolerance, both the father and mother must run on the same gene variant for a kid to be affected. Due to a lack of lactase, premature infants may also have lactose intolerance.

How is lactose intolerance diagnosed?

If you have a problem with bloating, acidity, and gas after taking dairy products then you can consult with your doctor and test your lactose intolerance. Several tests that measure the lactase enzyme in the human body are given below –

  1. Stool Acidity Test – This type of test can be done in kids and children that measures the lactic acid in a stool sample. When bacteria in the intestine ferment the undigested lactose then lactic acid accumulates.
  2. Lactose intolerance test – This type of test is a blood test, which measures the reaction of the body to a liquid that has high lactose levels.
  3. Hydrogen breath test – This type of test measures the amount of hydrogen in the breath after taking dairy products. The procedure that bacteria break down sugar like lactose is known as fermentation. The process of fermentation releases hydrogen and many other gases and these gases are absorbed and finally exhaled. If you are unable to digest dairy products then this type of test will appear higher as compared with the normal amount of hydrogen in your breath.

Risk Factors – There are several risk factors of lactose intolerance are discussed below –

  1. Premature birth – Kids born prematurely may have decreased levels of lactase due to the small intestine does not develop lactase-producing cells.
  2. Increase in age– Lactose intolerance may occur in adulthood but the condition is uncommon in children and kids.
  3. Certain cancer treatments – If you had radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer in your stomach then it may increase the risk of lactose intolerance. When you have any intestinal complication from chemotherapy then it can also enhance the chances of developing lactose intolerance.
  4. Ethnicity – Lactose intolerance is most common in individuals who are living in Asia, Africa, and many more.
  5. Diseases affecting the small intestine – Small intestine disorders may occur with lactose intolerance such as Crohn’s disease, bacterial overgrowth, celiac disease, and many more.

Conclusions – You will become lactose intolerant in the future due to an increase in age. If you are not able to digest dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter, and many more then consult with your doctor to treat this disorder.


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