Understanding Lactose Intolerance: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Understanding Lactose

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which your body lacks the enzymes necessary to digest and absorb lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. It is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar in milk and dairy products. Symptoms of lactose intolerance typically begin anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours after consuming a dairy product and include cramps, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea.

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is caused by the inadequate production of the enzyme lactase in the small intestine. Lactase helps your digestive system break down the sugar, lactose, found in dairy products. If too little lactase is produced, it can cause lactose to remain undigested in the gut, leading to the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

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Diagnosis of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is typically diagnosed through a range of tests, including a hydrogen breath test, a stool acidity test, a blood test, and/or an elimination diet. A hydrogen breath test is most commonly used, and it measures the amount of hydrogen in a person’s breath after consuming a dairy product. An elevated level of hydrogen in the breath is indicative of lactose intolerance.

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Treatment of Lactose Intolerance

The primary treatment for lactose intolerance is reducing or avoiding dairy products in the diet. Additionally, some people take over-the-counter lactase supplements, which help to break down lactose ingested in food, thereby reducing symptoms.

Health Concerns of Lactose Intolerance

It is important to note that while lactose intolerance is largely a digestive disorder, when caused by an underlying medical condition, it can have more serious health effects. For example, if the digestive disorder is caused by celiac disease or chronic pancreatitis, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies and malabsorption of vitamins, minerals, and proteins, which can have more health implications.

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It is also important to note that lactose intolerance is not a food allergy and does not cause an allergic reaction. Nevertheless, it is important to pay attention to symptoms and make dietary modifications if necessary.

Keywords: lactose intolerance, digestive disorder, lactase supplements, hydrogen breath test, celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, dairy products.

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