Lactose intolerance is a type of digestive disorder that is estimated to affect roughly seventy-five percent of the global population. Patients with this condition have trouble digesting lactose, one of the carbohydrates commonly found in milk and other dairy products. When a lactose-intolerant individual consumes dairy, they might feel bloated or develop diarrhea, and gas and abdominal cramps may be present too. Rarely, certain patients could have nausea or vomiting. To test for lactose intolerance, doctors usually perform a hydrogen breath test first. This test measures the amount of hydrogen in the patient’s breath after they drink a solution containing lactose. Patients may also need blood tests, and infants and children are normally given a stool acidity test. Treatment for lactose intolerance currently consists of reducing or avoiding sources of lactose in the diet. Some patients may be able to eat small amounts of dairy products, and it can be beneficial to use non-dairy milk alternatives such as rice milk, oat milk, or coconut milk. Individuals with lactose intolerance might need to make adjustments to their diets to ensure they have sufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D.
The major causes and risk factors for this condition are discussed below.
Insufficient Production Of Lactase
The primary cause of lactose intolerance is insufficient production of lactase, an enzyme produced in the small intestines. This enzyme is responsible for the digestion of lactose, and patients who have low levels of the enzyme will experience symptoms of lactose intolerance after consuming dairy. In patients with lactase deficiencies, foods that contain lactose move into the colon instead of being digested properly before reaching this area. The presence of lactose in the colon triggers symptoms. If patients with lactose intolerance do not want to completely eliminate dairy products, there are several types of dairy milk available made without lactose, and patients could also try taking a lactase enzyme supplement prior to consuming dairy. The supplements reduce symptoms for many patients.
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