If you can learn to recognize the symptoms, you will be able to thwart and avoid many complications that may arise as a result of the inability to digest lactose in the body. Every person's body secretes an enzyme known as lactase, which helps the body digest lactose (which is found in milk and dairy products). A lack of this enzyme will inadvertently lead to some side effects and repercussions, and it is important to recognize these problems as soon as possible. The sooner one can manage to observe them and treat them, the lower the chances of discomfort and serious damage in the future.
As already mentioned, a lack of lactase in the body is what causes lactose intolerance. Lactase is produced in the small intestine, and this helps in breaking down the lactose that enters the body through milk and dairy products. In order for the lactose to be absorbed by the body, it needs to be broken down into two parts (glucose and galactose), and it is the lactase enzyme that carries out this task. A deficiency of lactase means that the breaking down of lactose will not happen. This deficiency occurs due to 3 causes―congenital, secondary, or developmental.
When we talk about side effects, it is important to determine which of these causes is the culprit, as the treatment may also differ. Congenital causes implies that the individual has a gene mutation since birth. Secondary causes talk about diseases that deprive the body of their lactase count. Developmental causes are those which take place over a period of time, due to the lifestyle habits and geographical location of the person. There are many digestive enzyme supplements that can help cure this problem, or can even worsen it.
Lactose intolerance is often wrongly mistaken as a milk allergy. An allergic reaction to cow's milk occurs because the body releases antibodies assuming that the contents of the milk are a potential threat. These antibodies cause the commonly seen milk allergy symptoms. Though most of them may be similar in nature to those seen in lactose intolerant people, we must understand that this problem occurs due to an inherent lack of the lactase enzyme in the body.
The problem with the symptoms is that they are the same that many other diseases and ailments also show. So, it is difficult to trace the problem to a deficiency of lactase in the body. Here are some of the most commonly seen symptoms though, and if you suffer from them regularly, you muse visit a doctor for further treatment.
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal distention
- Any other gastrointestinal symptoms
Diagnosis in adults is slightly difficult because of the common nature of signs, and also due to the amount of lactose in the diet. Different people will have different amounts of lactose coming through from their diet, so the severity of the symptoms will be affected by this.
When the lactose is not broken down in the small intestine, it is then passed on to the colon, where some supply of lactase is always stored. This lactase breaks down the lactose inside the colon itself, but the problem is that the glucose and the galactose are then mostly absorbed by the bacteria present in the colon itself. The possibility of reaching other parts of the body is not very high, and this causes the various symptoms. Moreover, the breaking down of the lactose within the colon releases a lot of hydrogen, and this leads to further complications within the body.
It is very important to note and observe the various symptoms during pregnancy, because one of the long-term consequences of this ailment is a severe lack of calcium in the body. This inevitably leads to osteoporosis. Along with this, a loss of Vitamin D can also occur in the body, and this can also further compound many problems. Taking supplements of calcium and Vitamin D can help the individual in this case. This is something that should not be avoided, especially in the case of pregnant women. All the nutrients and minerals that are contained in milk are being given up by a person who is lactose intolerant, so they need to derive these compounds from different sources.
Once the symptoms have been identified in an individual, it is important to treat them in the right manner. There are many forms of treatments―lactose intolerance that doctors and medical experts employ to help one get rid of the problem altogether. Either some external sources of lactase are provided or some supplements for essential nutrients and minerals are provided. In some cases, the person is asked to slowly increase their intake of milk, so that the body builds up its supply of the lactase enzyme slowly, and gets over this problem. Adhering to a selective diet will also be helpful to many people.