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What is Lactose Intolerance?

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What is Lactose Intolerance?

You’ve probably thought of getting a lactose intolerance test if you’ve ever experienced a rumbling belly after having a cheesy pizza slice.

Here’s a quick guide for all you newbies to the basics of this disorder and how it’s identified. 

Lactose Intolerance: What Exactly is it?

Lactose intolerance is a relatively prevalent gastrointestinal disorder that occurs due to the body’s impotence to break down lactose properly. Lactose, a sugar compound found mainly in dairy items such as baked goods, milk, and even breastmilk, is an excellent source of nutrition. 

An enzyme naturally found in the body, known as lactase, digests the lactose sugar into simpler sugars. Thereby playing a critical role in the breakdown of whole milk and thus increasing its absorption. 

Although the disorder isn’t life-threatening, the symptoms experienced can be pretty upsetting and can significantly bring down the quality of one’s life.

milk in glass bottle

Classes of Lactose Intolerance

It may come as a surprise, but this medical condition has a few subtypes. Some of which include:

  •         Primary stage: leads to the gradual decline in lactase production. Predominantly due to old age. 
  •         Secondary stage: results in progression of the condition due to other basal  factors that affect the small intestine
  •         Developmental lactose intolerance: digestive distress in premature infants

Lactose Intolerance: Giveaway Signs 

Symptoms may arise within a few minutes to an hour after intake of lactose-containing food such as milk and cheese. The threshold refers to the amount of lactose an individual can bear. This threshold differs from one person to another. 

Telltale Signs:

  •         Stomach pain
  •         Bloating and build-up of gas
  •         Diarrhea and constipation
  •         Throwing up
  •         Nausea and sickness

In lactose intolerant people, diarrhoea is a common phenomenon. The unprocessed lactose causes water retention in the digestive tract. Upon arrival in the large intestine, the bacteria residing in the gut ferment the undigested lactose, leading to discomfort and gas build-up. 

However, your discomfort will only last a short period.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s time you got a lactose intolerance test.

Diagnosis

A lactose intolerance test is required for an accurate diagnosis of the medical condition. A few examples of the test include:

Hydrogen Breath Test

A hydrogen breath test aims to evaluate the degree of hydrogen in your breath right after lactose consumption. Elevated levels suggest digestive issues.

Lactose Tolerance Test

Your doctor will check for increased blood glucose levels subsequent to lactose intake. If blood sugar levels remain unchanged, this is a signal of lactose intolerance.

Stool Acidity Test

Faecal matter is used to check for lactose intolerance in newborns and infants. First, the pH levels of the stool are measured. Low, acidic pH levels are an indication of lactose intolerance.

Self-Elimination Test

You can do this test in the comfort of your home by simply removing lactose-containing food from your diet for a few weeks. Then, gradually reintroduce the dairy products and observe any changes in your symptoms.

Take-Home Message

Lactose intolerance is a prevalent medical condition, and while it isn’t dangerous to have, it’s essential to keep a check to save yourself from distress and discomfort.

Contrary to popular belief, there are several non-dairy options you can opt for and still get your daily calcium intake.