What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is when your body can’t break down or digest lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and milk products.
Lactose intolerance happens when your small intestine does not make enough of a digestive enzyme called lactase. Lactase breaks down the lactose in food so your body can absorb it. People who are lactose intolerant have unpleasant symptoms after eating or drinking milk or milk products. These symptoms include bloating, diarrhea and gas.
Lactose intolerance is not the same thing as having a food allergy to milk.
What causes lactose intolerance?
Both children and adults can have lactose intolerance. Here are some common causes of this condition:
- often runs in families (hereditary). In these cases, over time a person’s body may make less of the lactase enzyme. Symptoms may start during the teen or adult years.
- In some cases, the small intestine stops making lactase after an injury or after a disease or infection.
- Some babies born too early (premature babies) may not be able to make enough lactase. This is often a short-term problem that goes away.
- In very rare cases, people are born with an inability to make any lactase at all.
What are the symptoms ?
Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms often start about 30 minutes to 2 hours after you have food or drinks that have lactose.
Symptoms may include:
- Belly (abdominal) cramps and pain
How severe your symptoms are will depend on how much lactose you have ingested and how much lactase your body makes.
How is lactose intolerance treated?
Here are some tips for managing lactose in your diet:
- Start slowly. Try adding small amounts of milk or milk products and see how your body reacts.
- Have milk and milk products with other foods. You may find you have fewer symptoms if you take milk or milk products with your meals. Try eating cheese with crackers or having milk with cereal.
- Eat dairy products with naturally lower levels of lactose. These include hard cheeses and yogurt.
- Look for lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk and milk products. These can be found at many food stores. They are the same as regular milk and milk products, but they have the lactase enzyme added to them.
- Ask about lactase products. Ask your healthcare provider if you should take a lactase pill or lactase drops when you eat or drink milk products.
At Amrita Medical Center, our staff is happy to answer any of your questions and help you decide if the right fit for you. We even offer same day appointments for your convenience. Contact us here!