Lactose is a type of sugar found naturally in the milk of most mammals. Lactose intolerance is a condition characterized by symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea, which are caused by poor absorption of lactose.
In humans, an enzyme known as lactase is responsible for breaking down lactose for digestion. By adulthood, about 70% of people no longer produce enough lactase to properly digest the lactose in milk, which causes symptoms when consuming dairy. Although having had gastrointestinal diseases can also help develop lactose intolerance.
We explain several symptoms that indicate that you are suffering from lactose intolerance.
Stomach pain and bloating
Stomach pain and bloating are the most common symptoms of lactose intolerance, both in children and adults. When the body cannot break down lactose, acids and gases are produced that can cause stomach pain and cramps. The pain is usually localized around the navel and in the lower half of the stomach.
The bloated feeling is due to increased water and gas in the colon, causing the intestinal wall to stretch, also known as distention.
It is important to note that stomach pain and bloating are common symptoms that may be due to other causes, such as overeating, other types of malabsorption, infections, medications, and other illnesses.
Lactose intolerance can cause diarrhea, that is, an increase in the frequency, liquidity or volume of stools. It occurs when undigested lactose is fermented in the colon, increasing the bulk and fluid content of stool.
Lactose fermentation in the colon increases gas production.
Although the main recognized symptoms of lactose intolerance are gastrointestinal in nature, according to the journal Health Line some case studies have reported other symptoms including: headaches, fatigue, loss of concentration, muscle and joint pain, mouth ulcers and eczema.
The publication also claims that some people with a milk allergy may mistakenly attribute their symptoms to lactose intolerance.
Milk allergy and lactose intolerance are not related. However, they often appear together, which can make it difficult to identify the causes of the symptoms.
Symptoms of a milk allergy include: rash and eczema, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain, and asthma. Unlike lactose intolerance, milk allergy can be life-threatening, so getting an accurate diagnosis of symptoms is important, especially in children.
How to control lactose intolerance
The most important thing is to determine which foods have more and less lactose, although there is no cure for lactose intolerance, you can treat your symptoms by limiting or avoiding dairy products. You can drink milk with reduced lactose or replace it with another type of milk such as oat or soy.
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