It is rare for caucasians to develop lactose intolerance, however, it is quite common among people from asia, africa, the middle east and some mediterranean countries, as well as aboriginal australians. Up to five per cent of caucasians versus up to 75 per cent of non-caucasians living in Australian are lactose intolerant.
What is Lactose Intolerance?
Milk and other dairy products contain a sugar carbohydrate called lactose. Normally, the body breaks down lactose into its simpler sugar components for digestion with the help from the enzyme lactase. Most mammals stop producing lactase when they are weaned, however, some humans are able to produce it throughout their life. With enough lactase, a person can have digestive problems like abdominal pain and diarrhoea when they consume dairy products containing lactose. This is known as lactose intolerance or lactase deficiency.
Types of lactose Intolerance
There are three main types and two rare types of lactose intolerance such as:
Primary Lactose Intolerance: The most common form is a normal result to aging. Most people are born with enough lactase, and the amount decreases over time. This is because as people age, they eat a more diverse diet and rely less on milk. The decline in lactase is gradual and seen most common among people in asia, africa, native america and of mediterranean ancestry.
Secondary Lactose Intolerance: Due to an illness or injury with intestinal diseases such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease or due to a surgery or injury to the small inestine.
Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance: In rare cases, lactose intolerance is inherited. A defective gene can be passes from the parents to the child’s, resulting in the complete absence of lactase in the child.
Developmental lactose Intolerance: occasionally, a type of lactose intolerance called developmental lactose intolerance occurs when a baby is born prematurely. This is due to the lactase production in the baby beginning later in pregnancy, after at least 34 weeks.
Symptoms of lactose Intolerance
Abdominal swelling (bloating)
Flatulence (excessive wind)
If you are experiencing these symptoms and are concerned, it is best to speak to your doctor. It may be suggested to eliminate dairy foods if a lactose intolerance is suspected. Some dairy products, such as hard cheese and mature chesses, contain no lactose and other products such as yoghurt, cream, butter and ricotta contain very little. Many people with lactose intolerance can tolerate a small amount a lactose within their diet with little symptoms.
Causes of Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is largely genetically determines although some other cause can include:
Lactose Intolerance in babies
Around two thirds of babies will experience some degree of lactase deficiency in their early months without it causing any harm. Human breast-milk contain arounds seven per cent lactose, the amount is not affected by the mother’s diet. A bout of gastroenteritis can strip the baby’s small intestine of lactase enzymes, and lactose-free formula may need to be used for a number of weeks until the enzyme levels recover. Lactase drops are also available from pharmacies, but they aren’t always helpful.
A few babies are born without any lactase enzymes at all, and lactose-free formulas may be an option in such cases. Lactose intolerance does not cause vomiting in babies, this may be symptomatic of an allergy to cow’s milk protein casein, and should be assessed by a doctor.
Various methods may be used to diagnose lactose intolerance including:
Hydrogen breath test: this tests the amount of hydrogen that is breathed out. When lactose if fermented by bacteria in the bowel, instead of being converted by lactase, more hydrogen is produced
Elimination diet: A tedious method that involves removing foods that contain lactose to see is the symptoms improve. If the symptoms reappear once the foods are reintroduced, then lactose intolerance is most likely the cause.
Stool Acidity Test: This test is more often done in infants and children. It measures the amount of lactic acid in a stool sample. Lactic acids accumulates when bacteria in the intestine ferment the undigested lactose.
How is lactose Treated?
There’s currently no way to make your body produce more lactase enzyme. Treatment for lactose intolerance involved decreasing or completely removing milk products containing lactose from the diet. Lactose-free milk products can be found at the supermarket and there are plenty of other alternatives.
An over-the-counter lactase enzyme is available in capsule, pill, drops or chewable form to take before consuming dairy product. The drops can also be added to a carton of milk.
People who are lactose intolerant and not consuming milk or dairy products may become deficient in calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin and protein. Taking calcium supplements or eating foods that are either naturally high in calcium or are calcium-fortified is recommended.
Management of Lactose Intolerance
Soy foods such as soy milk and yoghurt are lactose free, and a good source of calcium, making it a great substitute for milk or milk products
Hard and matured cheeses such as cheddar, edam, swiss, mozzarella, brie and fetta contain no lactose and are tolerated by people with an intolerance
Drink milk in moderate quantities. Most people with this condition can tolerate 240ml of milk per day, but you need to work out your own tolerance klevel.
Avoid low-fat or non-fat milks as they can travel quickly through the gut and tend to cause symptoms in lactose intolerant people. Also, many low-fat milk products may contain skim milk powder, which provides a higher dose of lactose
Eat foods that contain lactose in combination with other foods or spread them out over the day, rather than eating a large amount at once
If you are trying to avoid lactose, ingredients to look for in the list label includes milk solids, non-fat milk solids, whey and milk sugar. Foods with hidden lactose below:
Biscuits and cakes (if milk of milk solids are added)
processed breakfast cereals
pancakes and pike-lets
some breads and margarine
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