Lactose is a disaccharide, meaning it is composed of two sugar molecules, glucose, and galactose, bound together via an oxygen atom (known as a glycosidic linkage). Lactose is the main carbohydrate in dairy products, and thus makes up a large part of the average human being’s diet. In order to breakdown lactose into its components, which are easily absorbed into the bloodstream and transported, an enzyme (a biological catalyst) has to digest the lactose at the glycosidic linkage. This enzyme is known as Lactase.
If the body doesn’t produce enough lactase, the lactose goes undigested and makes its way through the digestive system, where it is instead fermented by bacteria. The inability to breakdown lactose leads to the disorder known as lactose intolerance. The associated symptoms are caused by the fermentation by bacteria producing various gases.
If you suffer from any of the symptoms listed below following the consumption of dairy products, we suggest you discuss the possibility of being lactose intolerant with a professional. We recommend these Best General physician in Lahore if you reside in the area.
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As we’ve said before, the symptoms are caused by the indigestion of lactose and its fermentation by bacteria. However, if not managed properly, the disorder can lead to severe symptoms such as:
- Passing or having a lot gas
- Bloating (swelling of the belly)
- Cramping and pain in the abdominal region
- Nausea, maybe along with vomiting
The diarrhea is essentially due to the high concentration of lactose causing water to leave the body and enter the digestive tract to maintain balance.
Bloating and pain is caused by the build-up of gas and fatty acids due to the fermentation of lactose.
Causes of Lactase Deficiency
There are two main types of lactase deficiency, primary and secondary. We will go over the causes of each below.
This type of deficiency is an inherited trait, and it progresses as one becomes less reliant on dairy products such as milk. It is the most common cause of lactose intolerance, and can not be cured or treated.
This type of deficiency can be the result of a condition of or effect on the small intestine, leading to a shortage of lactase. This means that the lactose intolerance may only be temporary depending on the condition, and can disappear along with it, without direct treatment.
How to Cope with Lactose Intolerance
As we’ve said before, unless the condition is caused by a secondary deficiency, there is no cure. The only course of action is to avoid dairy products, and other foods that contain lactose, such as breakfast cereals, potato chips, nuts, and processed meats.
If you find it difficult to abstain from dairy products, you can try some substitutes like soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. You can also try moderating your intake of dairy rather than outright avoiding it, as your lactase production may be able to keep up.
You may also consider using enzyme supplements that can be added to meals, helping in the digestion of lactose, though their effectiveness varies.
Another option is building up the body’s populations of beneficial bacteria in the body through the ingestion of prebiotics and probiotics. This has been shown to reduce the severity of lactose intolerance.
If you’re considering any of these options, we recommend you consult a professional before proceeding with them. If you reside in Karachi you may want to consider these Best General physician in Karachi, so that you can work out a proper plan to deal with your condition.