What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose is a type of sugar that is present in milk and milk products. This sugar is easily digested when we are infants and is the main source of nutrition at that stage. Although in rare cases, infants may be lactose intolerant. As people get older, a large percentage have lesser quantities of an enzyme called lactase which is needed to break down lactose. This causes the lactose to remain in the bowel and absorb more water leading to watery stools.
Is lactose intolerance the same as milk allergy?
No. Lactose intolerance is different from milk allergy. Lactose intolerance is caused by simply the lack of digestion and not because of an inflammatory reaction. Milk allergy is caused by an allergic reaction, usually to proteins present in the milk. Milk allergy is far more serious and can lead to severe reactions like anaphylaxis that can be life threatening.
What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
68% of people around the world are said to have some amount of lactose intolerance. Most people can tolerate some amount of lactose, but may start developing symptoms when the quantity consumed exceeds the limit.
The symptoms usually manifest as a sudden urge to use the bathroom about half an hour to two hours after consuming milk or milk products. The symptoms may include one or many of the following:
If the person has been having diarrhoea, he/she may also develop dehydration. It is important to drink plenty of water if you suffer from diarrhoea.
When should you see a doctor?
If you experience the above mentioned symptoms, it is important to get it checked by a doctor because the symptoms are very similar to those of other conditions that need attention like irritable bowel syndrome or milk protein intolerance.
How is lactose intolerance diagnosed?
You may simply be asked to remove dairy products from your diet and wait for a while if your symptoms are minor. Some diagnostic tests may also be recommended such as:
If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend other tests to rule out other problems.
How is lactose intolerance treated?