Lactose intolerance is a condition where the inability to digest milk sugar (lactose) leads to one or more of these symptoms: abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and flatulence (passing gas). The symptoms usually hit within several minutes of ingesting a food that contains lactose, a type of sugar found in most dairy products (milk, ice cream, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, etc).
The most common cause of lactose intolerance is "primary lactase deficiency". This form is hereditary, but may not show up until later childhood or adolescence. As the child gets older he loses the ability to produce the enzyme ("lactase") which digests lactose. Sometimes the onset of symptoms is gradual, and worsens with age. Children often learn by experience to avoid dairy products most of the time, so the association with dairy foods is not always obvious to the parents.
Secondary lactase deficiency, the non-hereditary form, can happen to anyone, usually from an injury to the intestines. Several types of injury could cause this, including severe diarrhea, diarrhea that lasts a long time, chemotherapy, harmful bacteria, and other causes. The symptoms are the same, since both types result in excess lactose build-up in the intestines.
Your doctor can affirm the diagnosis of lactose intolerance by doing a biopsy of your small intestine or by running an expensive hydrogen analysis of your breath. However, most of the time, the history of symptoms following lactose ingestion will be enough proof. Try a lactose-free diet for 2 weeks, and see if the symptoms stop. Then try drinking milk again and see if the symptoms return. Then try using Lactaid® before ingesting dairy products, and you will know for sure if the treatment stops your symptoms.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance can be completely controlled!
The treatment consists of taking a small amount of lactase enzyme supplement at the time you eat a dairy food. Several products such as Lactaid® can be taken just before eating dairy foods. The vanilla-flavored tabs are very easy to chew and taste like candy. Sometimes the lactase supplement can last for 12 hours. Depending on how deficient you are, and how much lactose you eat, you may have to take a tablet every time you eat lactose-containing foods. Some milk products, such as Lactaid Milk, have the enzyme already added.
Children with lactose intolerance sometimes can get enough dairy products to supply their calcium needs, but parents should make sure they also get green vegetables and other sources of calcium. They may even need to take a calcium supplement.
Make sure lactose intolerant children (and adults)
are getting enough calcium!
Hidden Sources of Lactose