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Lactose Intolerance: The problem of Upset Stomach

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Getting an upset stomach after having milk or other diary products? Well! You have got lactose intolerance, which is basically the inability of metabolizing lactose, a sugar found in milk.

According to Wikipedia, the lactose intolerant bodies are not able to produce the required amount of enzyme lactase in the intestinal system. According to pediatrician Dr. Sears, diarrhea in babies is different than the usual soft yellow stool. 

It is believed that about 70 percent of the total world population suffers from the problem of lactose intolerance; however, the extent of discomfort may vary at large. However, according to a study in the recent issue of Nutrition Today, the prevalence of lactose intolerance may be far lower than previously estimated.

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

Primary: This mainly occurs due to low levels of lactase, developing post childhood. Mainly found in African and Asian cultures, since the use of industrialized and commercial dairy products is low there. 

Secondary: Induced environmentally, secondary lactose intolerance is usually an outcome of gastrointestinal diseases, along with the problem of contact with intestinal parasites like Giardia lamblia. Such problems impede the production of lactase, permanently. Acute gastroenteritis, giardiasis, crohn disease, celiac sprue, whipple syndrome, chemotherapy and radiation enteritisare some other causes of secondary lactose intolerance. Another type of temporary lactose intolerance is excessive presence of lactose in newborns.

Congenital: Congenital lactase deficiency is basically a genetic disorder impedes the enzymatic production of lactase. The deficiency is present since birth and should be diagnosed and treated immediately because of high risks of because of dehydration andelectrolyte losses.


Symptoms of Lactose intolerance

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal boating
  • Cramps in the abdomen part
  • Malnutrition
  • Reeking stools
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Slow growth

Diagnosis of Lactose Intolerance

Stool acidity test: Mainly for infants, this test involves proper diagnosis of the stools as no other test can be performed on them. 

Hydrogen breathe test: In this procedure, 50 gms of lactose is given to the patient after an overnight fasting. If the body fails to digest, enteric bacteria metabolize it, producing hydrogen. This detected in patient’s breathe with the help of clinical gas chromatograph or a compact solid state detector.

Intestinal biopsy: Post the discovery of high hydrogen in the hydrogen breath test, this test is done for confirmation. However, the test is quite insidious and requires a special laboratory to measure lactase enzymes or mRNA present in the biopsy tissue.

Treating lactose Intolerance

Avoiding Lactose: Try to avoid the intake of lactose from your diet, however, complete avoidance of lactose may result in deficiency of vitamin D, protein, calcium and riboflavin, hence, limited amount of mil or easy-to-digest milk products should be taken. Some of these products are Goat cheese, butter milk, yogurt, milkshakes, ice-cream and other fermented diary products. Infants and toddlers may take soy formulae and rice milk.

Lactase Enzyme Supplementation: If lactose avoidance is impossible, enzymatic lactase supplements should be taken. The supplements are produced by fungi of the genus Aspergillus and are similar to those produced in the small intestines. Avaiable in a number of doses, the enzyme, β-galactosidase, should not be taken on an empty stomach. Moreover, the enzyme is ineffective if it is unable to get to the small intestine by the time the problematic food does. Patients initially have to try and test a little to set with its dosage and timing and finally set it according to their body. Another enzyme, produced by yeast from the genus Kluyveromyces, takes comparatively a longer duration to start functioning.

Prevention of Lactose intolerance

Nothing can be possibly taken as a step to prevent lactose intolerance. The only solution available is restricted intake of milk and diary products:


Lactose intolerance is a very common health disorder. It can be prevented only by restricted your intake of milk and other diary products. Lactose-free milk or other easy-to-digest dairy products should be taken to stay away from this problem. 

Written by Healthplus24 Team
Date last updated April 24, 2012

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