Lactose is a form of sugar found in dairy products like milk. Sometimes, people are unable to digest lactose. This is lactose intolerance. Can you become lactose intolerant later in life? Let’s find out.
Due to the low production of the lactase enzyme, lactose intolerance occurs. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down lactose into Glucose and Galactose. These compounds are absorbed by the body to provide energy.
Lactose is crucial for providing energy to the body. However, when the body develops lactose intolerance, various symptoms start to show up, gas, bloating or diarrhea due to indigestion, etc.
A proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial for a person with lactose intolerance. This can prevent the person from harmful consequences in the future.
1. Lactose Intolerance: Causes
The lactase enzyme digests lactose sugar. This enzyme is produced in our small intestine. When a body becomes intolerant to lactose, lactase production is diminished or not digested properly.
Glucose and Galactose are the two products of the digestion of lactose. Blood is responsible for absorbing lactose to produce energy.
The lactose reaches the colon undigested when not digested due to lactose intolerance. The bacteria in the colon break the lactose causing lactose intolerance.
There are three types of lactose intolerance in the human body.
1.1. Primary Lactose Intolerance
This is a natural reduction of lactase production. A person who suffers from primary lactose intolerance is lactase efficient in childhood.
However, during adulthood, a sharp lactase deficiency occurs in his body. This makes dairy foods harder to digest. The primary lactose intolerance symptoms appear in adults, mostly.
1.2. Secondary Lactose Intolerance
When one suffers an injury, surgery or disease related to the small intestine, it can reduce lactase production. This makes the person lactose intolerant.
There are diseases associated with secondary lactose intolerance. Crohn’s disease, indigestion, and Celiac disease are some examples.
Secondary lactose intolerance is easy to treat than primary one. Proper treatment can reduce symptoms.
1.3. Congenital Lactose Intolerance
This type is at the genetic level. It is rare, but some infants develop lactose intolerance due to lactose-intolerant parents. A gene mutation occurs, and it passes from both mother and father to the child.
It can pass through generations, making it a family problem.
2. Lactose Intolerance: Diagnosis
Symptoms are the primary source for diagnosis. After observation, the doctors prescribe many types of tests.
2.1. Hydrogen Breath Test
After drinking milk or milk products in a liquid, a person’s breath is checked. If the breath contains a high amount of hydrogen, it shows the person is consuming lactose-containing foods.
2.2. Lactose Tolerance Test
After consuming dairy products or liquids, a blood test is done almost 2 hours later. This test is done to measure the amount of glucose in the blood. If the amount is less, the body is not digesting lactose efficiently.
2.3. Acidity test of Stool
After having milk or milk products, a person’s stool is analyzed for acid amount. If found high amount of acid, a person is experiencing lactose intolerance.
People with lactose intolerance can diagnose it by themselves. They should reduce eating dairy products. If symptoms diminish, it means they experience lactose intolerance.
3. Lactose Intolerance: Treatment
The treatment for lactose intolerance can restore the ability of the digestive tract to break down lactose. However, it can be a longer than usual process.
During the treatment, a person can maintain health by following some precautions and changes in a typical adult diet.
- First of all, reduce the lactose-efficient dairy foods and milk products.
- Drink only lactose-free milk.
- Start a lactose-free diet and include instant mashed potatoes.
- Add small amounts of dairy products for the body to become habitual.
- Take lactase supplements for proper digestion. These can be in the form of tablets, syrup, powder or drops.
- As milk products are good sources of Calcium and Vitamin-D, include alternative sources of these nutrients in your diet. For example, spinach, soybeans, fish, orange juice, cereals, etc. (Find Here)
- Make sure to read the labels of processed foods while buying from grocery stores. Look for lactose-containing foods.
- Consult a registered dietitian for a diet plan for lactose-free products.
In addition to the self-maintenance of lactose levels, doctors treat patients by prescribing drugs. The treatment depends on the type of lactose intolerance in the person.
Congenital lactose intolerance treatment has less scope to succeed due to its genetic relations. If the intolerance is acquired later in life, it can be treated.
Primary and Secondary lactose intolerance patients can be treated by adjusting their lactase levels. Just make sure to go to a registered medical practitioner for treatment.
4. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How does the Small intestine digest lactose?
The small intestine produces an enzyme called lactase. The lactase breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose. Blood absorbs them. The blood then transports them to different parts to provide energy.
What is an enzyme?
An enzyme is a protein produced by plants and animals. These proteins react on various complex substrates to break them into molecules. They perform many bodily functions like digestion, building muscles, respiration, excretion of toxins, etc.
What are the various lactose-free foods?
The list is very comprehensive. The main food products are the following:
- Poultry: Chicken, meat
- Lactose-free soy, rice or almond milk
- All legumes
- Lactose-free yogurt
What is Crohn’s disease?
It is a digestive tract disorder in which tissues get swelling due to irregular bowel movements. This can cause pain in the stomach, indigestion, diarrhea, tiredness, etc.
What is Celiac Disease?
It is an auto-immune disorder. The gluten products cause the immune system to react and damage intestinal walls, including villi. This can seriously affect the digestion ability of the small intestine in our body.
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This article tries to answer-you become lactose intolerant later in life? There are many reasons that a person can suffer from this disorder.
At genetic levels, it is hard to treat the disease. But the acquired disorder of injury, surgery or other reasons, can be treated efficiently.
Proper diagnosis and treatment can prevent a person from this disorder, and maintaining balance in diet personally is the first and most effective way to deal with this problem.