someone is said to be lactose intolerant this is because
the digestive system of this individual is not able to break
down completely the sugar found in milk called LACTOSE.
This inability results from a shortage of the enzyme lactase,
which is produced by the cells that line the small intestine.
Hence, the term Lactase Deficiency.
In a normal digestive system all the food
we eat is broken down into smaller and simpler bits and
pieces' in an easy way to say it. This helps the body to
absorb the food and take out the proteins and what ever
is needed to maintain itself. Lactase breaks down milk sugar
(lactose) into the simpler form of sugar called glucose
that can then be absorbed into the bloodstream. When lactase
is missing or there is not enough of it to digest the lactose
consumed, the results may be very distressing for the person.
While not all persons deficient in lactase have the same
symptoms if at all, those who do are considered to be lactose
is lactose anyway?
Lactose is simply a sugar found in milk.
Any sort of milk produced by the human being or animals
(we do not like to call humans as animals-sorry biologists)
contains lactose. The sugar we mix with our coffees or teas
comes generally from the sugarcane and this sugar is called
sucrose. On the other hand sugar we find in fruits is called
fructose and sugar that is used in the brewing of barley,
wheat and oats is called maltose (not Maltese). Our body
needs sugar as it is the source of fuel we need to for example
move our muscles or to simply be able to read this message.
However, the only sugar our body is able to burn is called
glucose, therefore all other sugars that enter our system
have to be converted into glucose. This can only be done
by the help of enzymes produced by our body that are able
to biochemically convert what ever sugar into glucose.
causes lactose intolerance?
So now we know that lactose intolerance is caused by the
inability of the digestive system to break down lactose
into glucose. We also know that the protein (enzyme) responsible
to break down lactase into glucose is called lactase. Therefore,
the lack of lactose causes lactose intolerance. However,
different persons may have different amounts of lactase
produced. For instance Peter may be producing just enough
lactase to cope with a glass of milk in the morning before
suffering any effects while Jane is not even able to have
a lick of ice-cream because it distresses her. Some of the
causes of lactose intolerance are known. The production
of the enzyme lactase can be hindered by certain digestive
diseases and injuries to the small intestine. In some cases,
children are born without the ability to produce lactase.
However, in most cases lactase deficiency develops naturally
over time when after about the age of 2 years, the body
begins to produce less lactase. Interestingly, most people
do not experience symptoms until they reach an older age.
are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
The symptoms listed below are caused by the fermentation
of lactose. Since lactose is not broken into glucose, and
hence left unabsorbed by the body, the perfect conditions
found in the intestines help the lactose to ferment and
this leads to the formation of gases. A particular gas is
methane that is usually the cause for the pain and aggressive
Common symptoms include: nausea; cramps;
bloating gas; and wind diarrhoea, which may begin from after
half an hour to two hours after eating or drinking foods
containing lactose. Persons who suffer from lactase deficiency
and do not avoid lactose may suffer from weight loss and
The severity of symptoms varies depending
on the amount of lactose each individual can tolerate. Some
of the symptoms may be similar to those of milk allergy
but milk allergies can cause the body to react quicker,
more often within a few minutes.
treatment can I use for lactose intolerance?
Prevention is better than cure is what the wise say, and
in this case this proves to be very right because there
is no cure for lactose intolerance for the moment.
However, luckily lactose intolerance is
relatively easy to treat. Symptoms can be controlled through
diet as at the moment there is no existing treatment to
improve the body's ability to produce lactase.
Young children with lactase deficiency should
not consume any foods containing lactose. In general older
children and adults need not avoid lactose completely, but
individuals can handle different amounts of lactose . For
instance, John may suffer symptoms after drinking a small
glass of milk, while Rose can drink one glass but not two.
Some persons may be able to tolerate certain products containing
lactose but not others. This is a learning process for each
individual and it is only by trial and error to find out
what and how much exactly one is able to handle products
One can buy products that do not contain
lactose. Supermarkets sell many products that can improve
one's life without the risk of consuming lactose. One can
find many non-dairy products including butter, yoghurt,
cream', and of course Soya milk. This milk contains all
of the nutrients including calcium, found in regular milk.
One can buy unsweetened Soya-milk or sweetened, usually
with fructose. Please make sure that when you are shopping
for non lactose food products you do not forget to look
for the other ingredients that contain hidden lactose as
otherwise you might get symptoms anyway. Make sure you have
a copy of the list for the hidden products.
I/my child suffer form lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is a very common disorder that is present
in many people and being ignored all the time. The first
thing you basically need to check about yourself is whether
you get wind as soon as you have dairy products. This usually
starts within a few minutes and may be an indication that
you might be lactase deficient (on the other hand if your
colleague in the office suffers from wind instruct him to
avoid dairy products to allow you to work in peace!).
Many persons suffer from symptoms of lactose
intolerance without realising the actual cause of it. In
these cases the person may feel distressed with symptoms.
The main problem is the fact that not many people would
ever think that milk may give all these problems to them.
Usually all other things are blamed but milk is never in
the list of suspicions (especially in allergies).
Many times babies suffer from wind and colic.
However, the cause of all the pain, crying and distress
on both the baby and the parents may be the inability of
the baby to break down lactose (lactase deficiency). The
fermentation of lactose in the bowels causes the formation
of gases, including methane and carbon dioxide. These will
cause the baby's intestines to inflate and there is no need
to say how distressing this feeling on the baby is. Unfortunately
this remains undetected and the baby is fed milk all the
time. With advice from the doctor and dieticians a supplement
to milk should be found, at least to see if the cause for
colic is milk.
Another drawback is that LI is misdiagnosed
in most of the cases. Doctors find it difficult to pinpoint
the presence of Lactose Intolerance and people with this
condition are wrongly classified as suffering from the Irritable
Bowel Syndrome (IBS). These persons are made to suffer in
vain, where if they were diagnosed properly, all it takes
is the avoidance of milk from their diet. This will be enough
to lead them to a normal life.
Above all how would one expect us to blame
milk, isn't it the same liquid that our mother has produced
to nourish us with? Isn't milk the most special drink, full
of proteins and nutrients much required by our body? Sad
to say that this does not make sense for every one because
statistics show the other face of milk.
While lactose intolerance is the inability
of the person in question to produce enough lactase to break
down the sugar lactose, milk allergy is caused by the inability
of the immune system to learn that milk proteins are harmless
for the body. None of these two irregularities are caused
by an external agent, however, they can be hereditary.