Lactose Intolerance-Symptoms, Causes, Diet, Treatment

If you’re suspicious that you have lactose intolerance, read further to confirm your doubts.

Sponsored link

Lactose intolerance is very common and excuses no one from infants to adults, male and female. This should not be confused with allergy from cow’s milk because milk allergy is quite common during the early years of a child’s life while lactose intolerance often occurs in adulthood. Let us take a closer look about the definition, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

Lactose Intolerance Definition

There are several types of sugar and lactose is one of these and is found in milk and dairy products. An enzyme called lactase, which is found in the walls of small intestine, breaks lactose into simple forms of sugar called galactose and glucose for easy absorption into the bloodstream turning it into energy that powers the body. Lactose intolerance or lactase deficiency refers to the lack of ability to digest lactose. Lactase deficiency occurs when the body produces less lactase enzyme which digests lactose. Bacteria will then take charge in breaking down undigested lactose that rests in the gut which triggers stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating and gas.

Causes of Lactase Deficiency

Low levels of lactase enzyme are the main cause of lactose deficiency. How does one develop lactase deficiency? There are three ways for one to develop deficit in lactase.


The body normally produces huge amounts of lactase from birth to early childhood when the primary source of nourishment is milk. However, when the diet becomes diversified and does not mostly rely on milk, the body gradually produces less lactase leading to the manifestation of lactose intolerance.

Injury or illness

Intestinal diseases may result to the decline of lactase production in small intestines. Crohn’s disease, gastroenteritis and celiac disease are examples of these intestinal diseases. In addition, when the small intestines are traumatized due to injury or surgery, lactase production also decreases.


If lactase activity is completely absent on either one or both parents, they can pass on the defective genetic pattern into their child. Although this rarely happens, but this disorder can be passed on from one generation to another where a child born with this condition requires lactose-free formulas.

What are the Risk Factors?


Some ethnic populations are more susceptible to lactose intolerance. These include Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Africans and Asians. However, the disorder is not common to people of North European origin.

Digestive Tract problems

Those who have traumatized small intestines due to inflammation, injury and intestinal diseases have low levels of lactase enzyme.


Adults have higher incidence of lactose intolerance compared to kids because the body eventually stops producing lactase enzyme when the individual gets older.

Sponsored link


Kids usually develop lactase deficiency after stints of infectious diarrhea. However, this improves after several days or weeks.


Some antibiotics can spark brief lactose intolerance by hampering the ability of the small intestine to produce lactase enzyme.

Premature Birth

Levels of lactase enzymes only increase on the end part of pregnancy. That is why premature infants normally have low levels of this enzyme.

Radiation Therapy to the Abdomen

If you have undergone radiation therapy on your abdomen due to cancer, you are at risk of developing lactose intolerance.

Signs and Symptoms of Lactase Deficiency

People with deficient levels of lactase enzyme manifest a variety of signs and symptoms based on the amount of lactose the food contains which the person consumes and the amount of lactase enzyme produced by the body. Usually, people with lactase deficiency may feel discomfort within 30 minutes to 2 hours following the consumption of milk and dairy products. Symptoms associated with this are stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, gas, abdominal bloating and pain. This is definitely an unpleasant experience and even embarrassing when you are at out or hanging out with friends. However, you may need to seek medical advice if the symptoms manifested by you or your kid worries you.


To confirm your doubts of having lactase deficiency, your doctor will conduct different tests. First, your medial history will be considered by knowing the symptoms you manifest, your previous health condition, family health history and medications you took including drugs for allergies or other concerns. Physical examination will then follow and other diagnostic tests.

Lactose tolerance and Hydrogen Breath test

You will be asked to drink a liquid containing high level of lactose to measure the reaction of your body to lactose. Blood test will follow after two hours to gauge the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. In hydrogen breath test, the doctor will measure the amount of hydrogen present in your breath. Undigested lactose will reach the colon and agitate it causing hydrogen gas to be exhaled.

Stool Acidity test

This diagnostic test is performed for children and infants. Undigested lactose usually creates acids such as lactic acid which is detectable in the stool.


In this procedure, a long tube with light and small camera at the end will be inserted into your mouth to enable the doctor to have a visual representation of your gut and take tissue samples to measure the amount of lactase enzyme your body produces.

Treating Lactase Deficiency

There is no cure or any means to augment the production of lactase enzyme in the body. However, the best way to manage the disorder is to reduce the amount of milk and dairy products in the diet to relieve the manifestation of the symptoms.

Living with Deficient Lactase Enzyme

You can still enjoy life even if you have lactase deficiency. Granted, dairy foods are great source of calcium which is important to having strong bones. But since you have lactose intolerance, it is best that you eat with food that are lactose-free as well as take in lactose-containing food in moderation. Lactose-free milk, cheese and yogurt, including beans, soy milk, tofu and broccoli are great sources of calcium. Above all, make it a habit to read food labels because lactose is added in food products such as cereal, salad dressings, cookies, coffee creamers, cakes, processed meats and breads as well as processed and frozen foods.

Sponsored link

Tagged as: , , , , , ,

Leave a Response