What Causes Lactose Intolerance?
Today, we’re going to talk briefly about lactose intolerance. Basically, lactose intolerance means that there is an enzyme in your digestive system that is missing that is necessary to break down the sugars in milk and milk products (cheese and things like this, dairy products).
You lack the lactase enzyme, which is necessary to break down dairy products, the sugars in dairy products. Because of that, because the enzyme is missing and you are unable to break down those sugars, it leads to a lot of discomfort and some negative symptoms.
It’s interesting to note that prior to modern times, most children had the lactase enzyme, and then gradually as they moved into adulthood and had less and less dairy in their diet would lose that particular enzyme.
That’s still true in many parts of the world, in the Western world, especially in America, where we tend to keep our lactase enzyme throughout our lives and enjoy dairy throughout our lives. Historically, anyway, it’s something that children had and then for whatever reason lost as they moved into adulthood.
Anyway, because dairy is very much a part of our diet here in the West, less so in the east, lactose intolerance can be a difficulty, certainly with the types of symptoms that come along with it.
If someone lacks the lactase enzyme in order to break down the sugars in the dairy products, some of the symptoms they can experience are painful gas, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping diarrhea, and nausea, none of which is pleasant.
It’s because it’s not being digested. All these things are staying there and how the body deals with it, it’s a very great deal of discomfort associated with it. These symptoms may go along with lactose intolerance, but not necessarily.
If you’re going to properly diagnose it, officially diagnose it, and not just think, “Well, maybe that’s what’s causing your painful gas, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, nausea,” you can do two types of tests.
One, after fasting overnight as the person comes in you give them a dairy-rich drink. Then, over the next two hours you do blood glucose tests. If their blood glucose is low and remains low (remember, they’ve been fasting. The only thing they’ve taken in is a dairy-rich drink), then that means that they have a lactase deficiency. The enzyme is not breaking down the sugars, putting it into the bloodstream, so the glucose level would go up.
The only thing they have in them is this dairy rich drink, their blood glucose levels remain low, there’s a lactase deficiency. The second test you can do is, once again, fasting. Give them a lactose-rich drink, and then measure the hydrogen levels in their breath over a given period of time.
If the hydrogen levels in their breath are elevated, they should remain low, if they are elevated then that also indicates lactose intolerance. The blood glucose test along with the hydrogen breathing test can both indicate positively whether or not there is lactose intolerance.
Finally, treatment of lactose intolerance. If it’s mild, there are things over-the-counter that you can get that temporarily give you that enzyme, enabling you then to break down the sugars and, at least at that moment, have ice cream or drink a glass of milk or whatever.
Long-term what needs to happen to avoid all of these problems is a change in diet. You’ve got to stay away from dairy products and milk products and things that obviously would have lactose in them.
On the market, there are many substitutes out there that are lactose-free: Lactose-free milk, lactose-free ice cream, things like this. Generally speaking, a change in diet is necessary.
Along with that change in diet, they’re going to lose a strong source of calcium, so calcium supplements may be necessary. Once again, these lactose-free milks often come fortified with calcium and things like that.
The primary treatment for lactose intolerance is diet change along with supplementation to replace the good nutrients that maybe are lost due to having no dairy in your diet. That’s just a brief overview of lactose intolerance. What it is, the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of.