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  • Writer's pictureMed Insider

Lactose Intolerance

By Senna Rogoyski

Highlights

  • Lactose intolerance means to be unable to fully digest milk products in your body.

  • There are many common symptoms that could occur when milk products are consumed.

  • Situations of one being lactose intolerant can vary as there are several causes for it to develop.

What does being lactose intolerant mean?


As researchers estimate that around 48% of Americans are lactose intolerant, lactose intolerance is fairly common within many people and is overall important to know about. Being lactose intolerant means that your body is unable to digest and fully break down the sugar in milk. The sugar in products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt is called lactose. People with lactose intolerance have trouble producing enough of the enzymes responsible for breaking down milk products in their small intestine. With this in mind, there are many levels of the severity one can have in being lactose intolerant which can also differ on symptoms they experience when they consume any milk products. For example, one can still have low levels of lactase, enzymes needed to digest lactose, and also have the ability to digest milk products. However, if the levels of lactase decrease too much, this leads to the symptoms. Another key fact is that being lactose intolerant doesn't mean you have an allergy to milk as this is a whole other topic that relates to the lack of proper function in the immune system.


Symptoms and Side Effects


It’s important to keep in mind that since both adults and children can develop this condition, both tend to experience similar symptoms. Since a symptom is triggered when the body has too few enzymes needed to break the milk products, the symptoms tend to start 30 minutes to 2 hours after the products are consumed. The symptoms one can experience vary such as :

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea, which can sometimes lead into vomiting

  • Bloating

  • Gas

  • Stomach cramps

Causes


For this common condition, there happen to be several causes and reasons as to why specific people have a higher chance of developing this than others. The causes are:

  • The intolerance for lactose is genetic and runs in the family. If this is the case, then as the person’s body starts to develop(from hormones and such) so will their intolerance and the severity in the symptoms.

  • An injury or a disease could all be possible reasons as to why the small intestine could stop making lactase and lead into the development of lactose intolerance.

  • Some premature babies do not have the need to make enough lactase and could therefore be lactose intolerant, however, it's often that the intolerance ends up going away in this case.

  • Although this is very rare, some people are born with the mutation to not have the ability to create lactase.

References

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