Posts for tag: Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is the body's inability to properly digest lactose, a type of sugar that is present in milk, cheese, and other dairy-based items. This is due to a deficiency in lactase, a digestive enzyme present in the small intestine. Some people are affected with lactose intolerance from birth, while others develop the condition later in life. This acquired intolerance may be due to the quality and quantity of the enzyme breaking down, or it may be a secondary response to another digestive problem such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or celiac disease. Lactose intolerance varies in intensity, but it can cause bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea within two hours of eating or drinking dairy products. A common digestive issue, it has been estimated that 65 percent of the world's population has some form of lactose intolerance.
Testing for lactose intolerance often starts with the patient ingesting dairy products in a clinical setting so the physician can observe the results. Determining if the intolerance is due to enzyme deficiency or an underlying condition, as mentioned above, is also essential. One of the most reliable tests involves measuring the level of hydrogen in a person's breath after drinking a lactose solution. Hydrogen is a byproduct of the bacteria in the digestive system if lactose cannot be processed efficiently.
Blood tests are another way that doctors can determine lactose intolerance. Over a period of hours and several draws, the sugar in the blood—glucose—will rise slowly in patients who are lactose intolerant. The easiest and most accurate test for infants is a stool acidity test; those whose bodies cannot process lactose will have a low pH level in their stools due to the presence of acid.
People who are diagnosed with lactose intolerance often find that avoiding foods with dairy products is the easiest way to manage their condition. Lactase replacement medication is also available over-the-counter; these supplements can be taken just before consuming a meal with dairy products to temporarily colonize the digestive system with lactase enzymes.
When people experience frequent bouts of flatulence, abdominal bloating, cramps, and diarrhea, it's disconcerting and sometimes unpredictable. Your gastroenterologist may review your symptoms and do some in-office testing to determine if you have lactose intolerance. It's a common GI condition in which the body produces the lactase enzyme in insufficient amounts. Fortunately, the teens and adults who develop it can manage the symptoms and feel good.
The details on lactose intolerance
The digestive enzyme, lactase, is produced in the small intestine. When it encounters lactose, the carbohydrate in dairy products such as milk and ice cream, it breaks down the sugar into a highly usable form. If, however, lactase is insufficient, the milk sugars will cause those uncomfortable GI symptoms within a half an hour or so.
While cheese and yogurt also are dairy products, they go through a fermentation process which limits their lactose content. As such, people who are lactose intolerant can consume these dairy items comfortably, says Genetics Home Reference.
Besides happening in young adulthood, lactose intolerance seems to run in families, particularly if as infants, individuals appeared unable to digest breast milk or formula properly. Additionally, some research shows this gastrointestinal problem may occur after an abdominal injury, reports John Hopkins Medicine.
Diagnosing and managing lactose intolerance
Your gastroenterologist will review your symptoms, their severity and timing. Also, he or she may run a lactose intolerance test in which you consume a liquid with high levels of lactose. Through the course of two hours, the doctor measures your blood sugar levels. High readings indicate lactose intolerance.
In addition, a hydrogen breath test pinpoints lactose intolerance. For babies and young children, a stool acidity test uncovers this common GI disorder.
To manage lactose intolerance, your doctor will recommend some diet modifications, such as eliminating as much dairy as possible. Checking food labels for dairy content helps, as well as switching to almond or soy milk and taking supplements such as Lactaid which boost lactase levels in the gut.
See your gastroenterologist
Your GI doctor wants you to have healthy digestion and a varied diet. Be sure to see him or her right away if you experience symptoms of lactose intolerance so you can feel your very best.