Introduction to Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is a common gastrointestinal disorder whereby the body has difficulty digesting the sugar lactose.
What is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is a common gastrointestinal disorder whereby the body has difficulty digesting the sugar lactose. This sugar is found in milk along with other dairy products and it is estimated that approximately 65% of the population has a reduced ability to digest lactose, with a higher proportion of East Asians, Africans and South Americans affected. Though it can present at any age lactose intolerance tends to develop between 20-40.
What causes Lactose Intolerance?
It is caused by the reduced production of lactase, a substance used by the human digestive system used to process lactose. This results in undigested lactose being fermented by bacteria, leading to the symptoms listed below. Lactose intolerance is not an allergy to lactose as allergies are mediated by the immune system. This is a case of an inability to produce a certain enzyme, a deficiency.
What are the symptoms of Lactose Intolerance?
Symptoms include abdominal bloating, flatulence, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea. These can vary greatly in severity depending on how much dairy you consumed and develop up to a few hours after eating/drinking.
How is Lactose Intolerance treated?
Although there is no cure for lactose intolerance it can be managed with a few lifestyle and dietary changes: These include avoiding or substituting foods such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and butter while maintaining your calcium intake via alternative foods. You may take lactase substitutes which can replace the lactase your body would have produced. While this isn’t a cure it can certainly help manage the symptoms.