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Introduction to Lactose Intolerance

Lactose is the sugar that is found in milk and foods made from it. In order forthe body to digest it, it needs to be split into two parts (glucose andgalactose). This is achieved with the help of lactase (an enzyme that isproduced by the lining of the small intestine). Lactose intolerance means thatthere isn’t enough lactase to digest the sugar.

It is estimated that almost 75 per cent of adults experiencesome form of lactose intolerance during their lifetime. However, only those whohave low levels of lactase and experience the symptoms are said to have lactoseintolerance.

Causes

There are three types of lactose intolerance:

Primary lactose intolerance. During childhood, the body produces a lot oflactase because milk is the basic source of nutrition. As a person gets older,the production decreases. This may cause lactose intolerance in some people.Secondary lactose intolerance. The small intestinedecreases the production of lactase because of some injury or illness (like aninflammatory bowel disease, or gastroenteritis, etc) that destroys the liningof the small intestine. Usually, as the illness is treated and cured, thesymptoms of lactose intolerance will disappear, although this takes time.Congenital lactose intolerance. This is a very rare form. Somebabies have a mutationin the gene that is responsible forproducing lactase, and the symptoms present themselves shortly after birth. Theyshould be taken to the doctor immediately.

Symptoms

The symptoms of this condition usually take half an hour up to two hours tobegin. They include: diarrhea, bloating, abdominal cramps, gas, and nausea. However,these symptoms may be caused by several gastrointestinal diseases, so a personshould consult a doctor to rule out any other possible cause.

Treatment

There is no cure for lactoseintolerance. The only thing that can be done is control the symptoms. There area few tips that might help one deal with this condition:

Using lactase products, the dietary supplements that helps one digestlactose. There are various forms of lactase supplements, so a person can choosethe one that suits them best.

Eating and drinking productswith reduced lactose, or soy milk and cheese. In most grocery stores, thereshould be these products which can help one avoid the symptoms.

Eating milk products with otherfood. Some find that it helps the symptoms greatly. Or, one could try and eatsmall portions of dairy products throughout the day. This reduces the pressureput on the small intestine to digest large amounts of lactose.

Eating yogurt with live cultures. These live cultures aid in the digestion ofthe lactose.

If a person has severe symptoms,they might need to avoid lactose altogether. This means that they need to avoidalso chocolate, pancakes, breads and baked goods and many other prepared food.They should be very careful about what they eat.

Also, they might need supplements, because they are not getting enough calciumthrough their diet. They might try almonds, tuna, broccoli, etc. But, to absorb calcium, the body needs vitaminD. This it can get through being in the sun, or through food like liver, oilyfish, etc.

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