Lactose intolerance is the body's inability to properly digest lactose, a type of sugar that is present in milk, cheese, and other dairy-based items. This is due to a deficiency in lactase, a digestive enzyme present in the small intestine. Some people are affected with lactose intolerance from birth, while others develop the condition later in life. This acquired intolerance may be due to the quality and quantity of the enzyme breaking down, or it may be a secondary response to another digestive problem such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or celiac disease. Lactose intolerance varies in intensity, but it can cause bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea within two hours of eating or drinking dairy products. A common digestive issue, it has been estimated that 65 percent of the world's population has some form of lactose intolerance.
Testing for lactose intolerance often starts with the patient ingesting dairy products in a clinical setting so the physician can observe the results. Determining if the intolerance is due to enzyme deficiency or an underlying condition, as mentioned above, is also essential. One of the most reliable tests involves measuring the level of hydrogen in a person's breath after drinking a lactose solution. Hydrogen is a byproduct of the bacteria in the digestive system if lactose cannot be processed efficiently.
Blood tests are another way that doctors can determine lactose intolerance. Over a period of hours and several draws, the sugar in the blood—glucose—will rise slowly in patients who are lactose intolerant. The easiest and most accurate test for infants is a stool acidity test; those whose bodies cannot process lactose will have a low pH level in their stools due to the presence of acid.
People who are diagnosed with lactose intolerance often find that avoiding foods with dairy products is the easiest way to manage their condition. Lactase replacement medication is also available over-the-counter; these supplements can be taken just before consuming a meal with dairy products to temporarily colonize the digestive system with lactase enzymes.
Tummy troubles? When some people are diagnosed with celiac disease, they also discover that they are lactose intolerant and have difficulty digesting milk and dairy products. Read on to learn all about lactose intolerance and celiac disease and their symptoms. Gastroenterologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders, including lactose intolerance and celiac disease.
Lactose Intolerance Overview
Lactose intolerance is a condition in which people have digestive symptoms after eating or drinking milk or dairy products. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest the sugar in dairy products. Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of an enzyme in the body called lactase. Lactose intolerance is not serious. Your doctor may do a breath, blood or stool test to find out if your problems are due to lactose intolerance.
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
After drinking or eating dairy products, you may feel sick to your stomach. You may also have loose stools or diarrhea, gas, pain, or cramps in the lower belly, rumbling or gurgling sounds in the lower belly. or swelling in your stomach. If you are lactose intolerant, you may still be able to eat or drink small amounts of milk. Some individuals do better if they have dairy with a meal.
Celiac Disease Overview
Celiac disease is a disorder triggered by consuming a protein called gluten, which is rye, barley, and wheat. When an individual with celiac disease eats foods that contain gluten, an abnormal immune reaction is triggered that damages a small part of the intestine called villi. Long-term complications of celiac disease include intestinal cancer, liver disease, and malnutrition, which can lead to osteoporosis and anemia. The longer people go untreated, the greater the risk for long-term complications.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Many individuals with celiac disease have no symptoms. Digestive symptoms, including stomach bloating, flatulence, pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and irritability are more common in children. Adults may experience numbness in hands and feet, joint or bone pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, canker sores inside the mouth, seizures, itching, and a skin rash.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of lactose intolerance or celiac disease, make an appointment with a gastroenterologist. Get your life back on track by receiving the best treatment available. A visit to the gastroenterologist will bring all the relief you need, with little hassle or expense.