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What is Lactose Intolerance? by Chelsea Godwin

By at November 8, 2011 | 7:42 am | Print

Lactose intolerance can also be known as lactose deficiency because it is a lack of a particular enzyme that is produced by the lining of one’s small intestine. Ultimately, this means that someone with this deficiency cannot properly digest the milk sugar in dairy products. Without the normal amounts of the enzyme lactase being produced in the small intestine our bodies cannot properly break down lactose to glucose and galactose that is in the dairy products that we consume (Harms, and Picco). This leads to lactose being directly moved into the colon, which is what leads to the typical symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.

There are many cases where someone may have low lactase levels and not show any signs or symptoms of being lactose intolerant. Therefore, only people with low lactase levels and that show symptoms are considered lactose intolerant (Harms, and Picco). Symptoms begin occurring anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours after eating or drinking anything that contains lactose, which are most often dairy products. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, nausea, cramps in the abdominal region, bloating, and gas. It is not very common for these symptoms to be severe, but if they are then medical attention may be needed.

Lactose intolerance can occur in three different scenarios; primary, secondary, or congenital lactose intolerance. Primary lactose intolerance is the most common because it is a normal result of the aging process. This is typically because less dairy products, such as milk, are consumed on a regular basis compared to when you are an infant or child. Secondary lactose intolerance is due to illness, injury, or surgery. This happens because the small intestine often decreases lactase enzyme production after a type of trauma like these. Congenital lactose intolerance occurs at birth. This is the rarest case of lactose intolerance because infants feed off of milk during their early years. This is hereditary and means the child was born with the inability to produce the lactase enzyme (Harms, and Picco).

People that are most commonly affected by this deficiency are African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, American Indians, premature babies, people that are getting older, and those being affected by diseases associated with the small intestine or radiation exposed to the abdomen (Harms, and Picco). There are some tests that can be done to diagnose lactose intolerance, though symptoms are usually a good indication of having the deficiency. Tests involve watching the body’s reactions to consuming products with lactose and testing stool samples.

Unfortunately, there has not been any treatments or cures that have been proven to increase the small intestines production of this enzyme. The easiest way to avoid the common symptoms are to reduce or avoid the amount of dairy products in ones daily diet. There are many products that are now lactose free, which is a good way to still get the nutrients from dairy products but avoid the lactose in it.

Works Cited

Harms, Roger, and Michael Picco. “Lactose Intolerance.” MayoClinic. N.p., 02 16 2010. Web. 14 Oct 2011. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lactose-intolerance/DS00530>.

 

 

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