Symptoms of lactose intolerance. When we are babies, milk is a substance that keeps us alive and ensures our good health and growth. But later, this valuable food itself may bring more problems than benefits. Managed by this is a problem very common among adults: Lactose intolerance.
The breakdown of lactose, a sugar found in most types of milk, is caused by an enzyme that produces our body, lactase. Infants usually produce enough to be able to digest breast milk, but as we grow older the amount of it in our body decreases.
By adulthood, up to 70% of people in the world are unable to fully digest this type of sugar – although the proportion is lower for people of European descent. In addition to lactase, factors such as various infections or chronic diseases of the digestive system, as well as certain types of medicines, also play an important role.
How do I know if I have lactose intolerance?
While this is a very common phenomenon, many sufferers are slow to detect it – in part because they have become accustomed to treating milk as something beneficial to their bodies. However, there are several symptoms that can resolve the condition.
When lactose fails to break down, it passes through our stomachs and reaches the large intestine. There is fermentation by the intestinal flora, that is, the normal bacteria that live there. This process releases short-chain fatty acids as well as gases such as hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide. We experience it as pain and cramps in the abdomen – mainly below or around the belly button.
Bloating is caused by the increase in water and gas in the large intestine, which makes our stomach dilate. How much we inflate depends not on the amount of lactose, but on our own sensitivity to the feeling of stomach expansion. In extreme cases, this discomfort can lead to nausea or even vomiting.
Increasing the amount of water in the large intestine can cause diarrhea. This symptom is more common in children, but it is not unlikely to occur in adult patients. In addition, diarrhea can be caused by any carbohydrate that reaches insoluble in the large intestine in excess of 45 grams. And this quantity is very large. For example, in the case of lactose 750 ml with 1 liter of milk is required and our body is completely unable to break it down.
The less our body is able to break down lactose, the more the “gut bacteria” are trained to perform this task. This increases the fermentation and consequently the production of gases. If you experience this symptom, you may be comforted by the fact that these gases are odorless!
And yet, the same problem that can cause diarrhea has the potential to have the opposite effect – though far less often. In this case, one particular gas is responsible: Methane. Scientists believe it has the ability to delay the movement of food into the intestine, leading to constipation. However, this symptom is more common in Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which can also worsen by eating dairy products.
Headaches, exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, aching muscles and joints, abdominal pain, difficulty in urinating and eczema have occasionally been reported as symptoms of lactose intolerance. Although most of them are not confirmed the effects of this problem, their appearance in combination with some of the rest after consuming dairy is good to suspect.
How will I be diagnosed?
The above symptoms do not always indicate lactose intolerance, but other digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Diagnostic tests are therefore required. Your doctor will suggest procedures such as a lactose malabsorption test by monitoring your glycemia rise, a hydrogen test breath test after lactose intake, and genetic testing for primary lactose malabsorption.
What will happen next?
The problem is easy to fix and is based on changes in your diet. Milk, ice cream and cheese spreads are the dairy products with the highest lactose content. Fermented cheeses contain significantly less and can help you absorb a sufficient amount of calcium. Your doctor may also prescribe some lactase preparations to help prevent unpleasant symptoms.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance