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What is lactose intolerance?
People with lactose intolerance cannot fully digest the sugar (lactose) in milk. As a result, they experience diarrhea, gas, and bloating after eating or drinking dairy products. The condition, also called lactose malabsorption, is usually harmless, but its symptoms can be bothersome.
Too few enzymes produced in your small intestine (lactase) are usually responsible for lactose intolerance. You can have low lactase levels and still digest dairy products. But if your levels are too low, you become lactose intolerant and develop symptoms after eating or drinking dairy products.
Most people with lactose intolerance can manage the condition without having to give up all dairy products.
Lactose Intolerance Symptoms
Stomach Pain and Bloating
Stomach pain and bloating are common symptoms of lactose intolerance in both children and adults. When the body cannot break down lactose, it passes through the gut until it reaches the colon.
Carbohydrates such as lactose cannot be absorbed by the cells lining the colon, but can be fermented and broken down by the naturally occurring bacteria that live there, known as the microflora. This fermentation causes the release of short-chain fatty acids, as well as hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide gases. increase can cause stomach pain and cramps. The pain is usually located around the navel and in the lower half of the abdomen.
The feeling of bloating is caused by increased water and gas in the colon, which causes stretching of the intestinal wall, also known as bloating. Interestingly, the amount of bloating and pain is related not to the amount of lactose ingested, but to the individual’s sensitivity to bloating sensations. Therefore, the frequency and severity of symptoms can vary significantly between individuals.
Finally, bloating, bloating, and pain can cause nausea and even vomiting in some people. This is rare, but has been observed in some cases, including in children.
Diarrhea is defined as increased stool frequency, amount or volume of fluid. Officially, passing more than 200 grams of stool in a 24-hour period is classified as diarrhea.
Lactose intolerance causes diarrhea by increasing the volume of water in the colon, which increases stool volume and fluid content. It is more common in infants and young children than adults.
In the colon, the microflora ferments lactose into short-chain fatty acids and gases. Most, if not all, of these acids are reabsorbed into the colon. Increasing acids and lactose increase the amount of water the body releases into the colon. Apart from lactose intolerance, diarrhea has many other causes. These include diet, other malabsorption, medications, infections, and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Fermentation of lactose in the colon increases the production of hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide gases.
In fact, in people with lactose intolerance, the colon microflora becomes very good at fermenting lactose into acids and gases. This causes more lactose to ferment in the colon, which further increases bloating.
Interestingly, the gases produced from lactose fermentation have no odor. In fact, the smell of gas does not come from carbohydrates, but from the breakdown of proteins in the intestine.
Constipation is characterized by hard, infrequent stools, a feeling of incomplete bowel movements, stomach discomfort, bloating and excessive straining. Bacteria in the colon produce methane gas as they ferment undigested lactose. Methane is thought to slow the time it takes for food to move through the gut, leading to constipation in some people. So far, the constipation effects of methane have only been studied in people with irritable bowel syndrome and overgrowth of bacteria. Therefore, constipation is not usually associated with lactose intolerance, although it has been reported as a symptom.
Other causes of constipation include dehydration, lack of dietary fiber, certain medications, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, and hemorrhoids.
While the main known symptoms of lactose intolerance are gastrointestinal in nature, some case studies have reported other symptoms, including:
loss of concentration
Muscle and joint pain
However, these symptoms have not been established as true symptoms of lactose intolerance and may have other causes.
Additionally, some people with a milk allergy may mistakenly attribute their symptoms to lactose intolerance.
In fact, up to 5% of people have a cow’s milk allergy, and this is more common in children.