Lactose Intolerance

Overview of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance or لیکٹوج عدم برداشت is an ability in which a person is unable to completely digest lactose sugar. Lactose is normally present in milk. When you suffer from lactose intolerance you have gas, diarrhea, and bloating after drinking or eating any dairy products. This condition is also known as ‘lactose malabsorption. It is usually harmless but its symptoms can make you feel uncomfortable.

Lactose Intolerance Meaning in Urdu

لیکٹوز سے عدم برداشت کوئی بیماری نہیں ہے بلکہ اس کی وجہ سے لوگوں کو دودھ میں موجود شوگر (لیکٹوز) کو ہضم کرنے میں مشکلات کا سامنا کرنا پڑتا ہے، جس کی وجہ سے وہ اسہال، گیس، اور پیٹ کے اپھار کا شکار ہو جاتے ہیں۔ یہ علامات ڈیری پروڈکٹس استعمال کرنے کے بعد شدت اختیار کر جاتی ہیں۔ لیکٹوز سے عدم برداشت خطرناک علامت نہیں ہے، تاہم اس کی وجہ سے کئی مشکلات کا سامنا کرنا پڑ سکتا ہے۔ اگر آپ اس بیماری کا شکار ہو جائیں تو اپنے معالج کے مشورے کے ساتھ ڈیری پروڈکٹس کا استعمال ترک کر دیں۔

You suffer from lactose intolerance when your body produces a small amount of lactate. You are still able to digest milk-related products if you have a low level of lactate in your body. However, if the level of lactate is extremely low then you become lactose intolerant and you start to suffer from lactose intolerance symptoms right after eating dairy products.

Lactate is an enzyme that is needed by your body for the digestion of lactose. Most people who suffer from lactose intolerance, are able to manage it without completely giving up on all dairy products.

Signs and Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

You would suffer from signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance normally after 30 minutes to 2 hours after drinking or eating any dairy products. Some of the common signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting (depending on the health condition of a person)

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Types of Lactose Intolerance

There are three types of lactose intolerance depending on the lactate deficiency in each type.

1: Primary Lactose Intolerance

It is the most common type of lactose intolerance. Normally babies suffer from this condition as they depend on milk for their nutrition. In this condition, the amount of lactate is decreased when their source of nutrition is switched from milk to other food products.

But, this amount is still high enough to digest the dairy product in a typical adult diet. In this condition, the amount of lactate production is sharply decreased by adulthood and causes difficulty in digesting dairy products.

2: Secondary Lactose Intolerance

In this type, your lactate production is decreased when you suffer from any injury, illness or surgery related to the small intestine. Crohn’s disease, bacterial overgrowth, and celiac diseases are linked with secondary lactose intolerance.

When the treatment of these diseases is done, it can help in relieving the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance. It also helps in restoring the normal level of lactate in the body.

3: Developmental or Congenital Lactose Intolerance

It is a rare type, in which a baby is born with lactose intolerance. This is due to genetics and autosomal recessive genes i.e. a gene that comes from both parents and affects the baby. Due to insufficient levels of lactate, premature babies also suffer from lactose intolerance.

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance occurs when your small intestine doesn’t work properly and doesn't produce enough lactase enzyme to digest lactose.

In normal conditions, lactate breaks the lactose into simpler sugars i.e. glucose and galactose. These sugars are then absorbed into your bloodstream via the intestinal lining.

But, if you suffer from lactose intolerance, your body doesn’t have sufficient lactate. Due to this, lactose directly moves into the colon without being processed and absorbed. The normal microorganisms, especially bacteria in the colon, interact with the lactose, and symptoms of lactose intolerance start to appear.

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Risk Factors of Lactose Intolerance

There are various risk factors that can affect your child or you are suffering from lactose intolerance. Such as:

  • Ageing – Lactose intolerance is normally observed in adulthood. It is not a common health condition among babies or young children.
  • Ethnicity – Lactose intolerance is common among people of American Indian descent, Hispanic, African, and Asian.
  • Premature Birth – Premature babies are more prone to lactose intolerance as they have reduced levels of lactate in their bodies. This is because your small intestine starts to develop lactate not until the third trimester.
  • Small Intestine Diseases – Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and bacterial infection can lead to lactose intolerance.
  • Cancer Treatments – If you are undergoing radiation therapy for cancer or suffer from any intestinal health complications due to chemotherapy, you are at risk of developing lactose intolerance.

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Prevention

You can reduce the discomfort of lactose intolerance by:

  • Cutting the amount of your daily dairy food intake.
  • Avoid food containing lactose such as cheese, whey, milk by-products, dry milk, butter, lactose, nonfat dry milk, curds, dry milk powder etc.
  • Keep your stomach full.
  • Wait for hours before having dairy in your food again.
  • Opt for food with less lactose in it. For example hard cheeses (parmesan, cheddar, Romano), buttermilk, goat cheese, and ice cream.
  • Opt for non-dairy coffee creamer.
  • Opt for non-dairy or substitute soy food.
  • Take supplements for the digestion of lactose.
  • Eat yogurt as it helps with an upset stomach.
  • Opt for lactose-free food.
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Diagnosis

Depending upon your symptoms and your response to dairy products your doctor might suspect the lactose intolerance condition. However, to confirm the illness and diagnose it properly, the doctor would follow tests:

  • Hydrogen Breath Test – In this test, after you intake lactose, the hydrogen in your breath is measured. A high level of hydrogen in breath is linked with lactose intolerance and can be due to other health issues as well.
  • Lactose Tolerance Test – After lactose ingestion, the blood sugar is measured in this test. The level of blood sugar won’t be affected if you have lactose intolerance as your body is unable to break down the lactose.
  • Genetic Testing – The genetic causes of lactose intolerance test is measured in genetic testing. However, the test can be falsely negative if you are suffering from secondary lactose intolerance.
  • Stool Acidity Test – This test is often used to identify lactose intolerance in infants and babies. Stool acid level is measured in this test. If the pH is low, it indicates lactose intolerance.
  • Lactase Activity at Jejunal Brush Border – This is an expensive method and requires an invasive biopsy of the jejunal brush border. It is a part of the small intestine. It is a definite way to assess the activity of lactate.

Apart from the aforementioned test, you can also opt for the elimination test by yourself if you suspect lactose intolerance. For this test, you need to avoid eating lactose-containing food for at least 2 weeks and then reintroduce it again to check if there are any digestive signs and symptoms.

While this test may help you, it is better to seek professional help for the proper diagnosis of this treatment.

Treatment of Lactose Intolerance | When to Consult a Doctor

You may suffer from lactose intolerance due to any underlying health condition. So, the first thing is to treat that underlying health condition as it can help the body’s ability to restore lactose digestion. This process can take months. In case of the other cause of lactose intolerance, you can opt for the low-lactose diet.

To reduce the amount of lactose in your diet, you need to:

  • Limit your intake of dairy and milk products.
  • Drink and eat milk and ice cream with reduced lactose in them.
  • Add small servings of dairy products to your regular meals.
  • Add powder or liquid lactase enzyme to your milk to break down the lactose.

Doctors to treat Lactose Intolerance

Last updated on Monday 21/11/2022

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Dr. Bushra Ali

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Prof. Dr. Khalid Mahmud Khan

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Dr. Salman Javed

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