Many people are familiar with unpleasant bloating and similar symptoms associated with intake of diary products, cows’ milk in particular. For some people it sometimes takes quite a long time to discover what the cause is of these inconveniences, since most of us use diary products daily and regularly.
However, there are tests to determine whether the milk or milk products are the reason we feel bad or not. Lactose intolerance occurs in numerous cases and it has several types.
Lactose intolerance cause
Lactose intolerance is a sort of metabolic disorder, a condition which makes people unable to normally process milk and milk products. This phenomenon occurs in animals, as well. Cats, which are obligate carnivores, often appear to be lactose intolerant, which is exactly the opposite of the popular image of those animals that are considered milk addicts.
This condition is associated with the lack of lactase enzyme, which should be found in our small intestine. It also occurs if digestive tract cells are not capable of producing enough of the enzyme.
The main role of lactase is to process sugars from milk and divide it into simple carbohydrates. If lactase is active at least 50%, symptoms of lactase intolerance should not appear at all. If this important enzyme is less active, milk sugar remains unprocessed and goes its way through our digestive system in its original form. Unprocessed milk sugar is a delicious source of food for bacteria in our colon. Feeding from sugars bacteria produce gasses, so we feel bloated and uncomfortable. The rest of lactase not eaten by bacteria pulls the water out of our system, which could result in diarrhea.
Lactose intolerance types
There are three different types of the condition. Lactase intolerance is not a serious disease, but it causes discomfort and other issues, so it is very useful to determine if you suffer from it. You can have it since your birth, but you can also get it later in life.
Congenital lactose intolerance
This is quite a rare condition. Some people could be born lactose intolerant, if they inherited a defective gene from their parents so their digestive tract originally lacks of lactase enzyme. That also means babies with the condition would be intolerant of breast milk and they would get diarrhea once they’ve had it. The condition is easily regulated by feeding babies lactose free formulated milk. It is of a vital importance to determine if a baby suffers from inherited lactose intolerance, because diarrhea could cause serious dehydration, even life-threatening.
Primary lactose intolerance
This is a common type of the condition. It normally occurs in adolescence period and adulthood, as a result of aging. Most of people are born with sufficient lactase amount. Humans need it in order to normally process mother’s milk and get all the valuable nutrients from it, important for a healthy and progressive development and growth. As we get older, our menu gets varied, so our organism naturally decreases the level of lactase.
However, we would still consume milk and diary products. In some people the level of lactase gets so low they can’t process diary products so they experience inconvenient symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhea and stomach upset in general.
Secondary lactose intolerance
This condition is caused by a temporary lack of lactase, associated with small intestine tissue damage and the reduction of its functionality. It is common in people who have suffered digestive tract infections, people who experience temporary digestive problems caused by a low tolerance of protein food, people with celiac disease and chronic colon inflammation.
Could lactose intolerance develop later in life?
As we’ve mentioned above, lactose intolerance could be developed later in life. It is a normal side effect of aging. Our body decreases the level of lactase enzyme as we grow older and our organism starts to crave for various types of food and various nutrients, needed for our overall development and health. So it is not something to worry about, as it is a completely normal phenomenon. It also occurs in animals. We’ve mentioned cats. They need lactase only in breastfeeding stage. Since they are carnivores, they don’t need it to process meat and they don’t crave for milk nutrients at all. The case with humans is similar. However, we could still have diary products, but they should not take up the most of our menu.
This condition affects nearly 65% of human population, meaning this percentage of population develops some level of lactose intolerance during their life. It affects both genders equally and it usually occurs in people between 20 and 40 years of age. Children are not so likely to be lactose intolerant, which is completely logical. However, there are some rare cases of congenital lactose intolerance. Most of people who’ve later discovered they are lactose intolerant started to feel the first symptoms in their teens, without associating it with the condition. Those first symptoms could appear as a stomach discomfort and not so alarming bloating, so people usually take them for granted.
An average person is normally tolerant of lactose at birth. The level of lactase enzyme is at its peak, needed for normal processing of mother’s milk and getting all benefits from it. A few years after, the level of lactase naturally declines.
As we get older it gets lower, so some people experience stomach upset and bloating after having diary products. The sugar from milk cannot be processed, it feeds bacteria in our digestive tracts and causes us feel really bad. Factors like race and family heritage could affect the rate of the intolerance. There are some people whose bodies prolong the production of lactase enzyme, even when they get older, so they could still normally process milk sugar and comfortably eat diary products and drink milk.
However, even those people experience lactose malabsorption, once they’ve exceeded about 74 years of age. This is a normal result of aging.
How to cope with lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance could be uncomfortable, but is not a serious condition, if you take a good care of it. The first thing you should do if you regularly experience bloating and diarrhea is to determine whether lactose causes you those problems or nit. Track what you eat and try to notice the scheme. If you’ve experience those symptoms after having diary products and milk, you might be lactose intolerant. The best thing is to seek your doctor’s advice. You can get tested and make sure what causes you discomfort.
There is no a magical solution or cure to make your body produce more lactase. Lactose intolerance could be treated by right choices of food and good lactase free recipes. Many people could still normally have a small amount of milk on a daily basis. About half a cup of milk should not be a problem. If you like your coffee with milk, it should be ok.
However, track what you’re consuming and determine what causes you discomfort. You don’t need to renounce all diary products, however.
Goat milk is considered to be quite beneficial to people with this condition, for example. If you change your eating routine and make a good well balanced diet plan, the lactose intolerance won’t be a problem to have nutritional and delicious meals, keep healthy and feel great.