What Is Lactose Intolerance?
When your body cannot easily digest lactose, a type of natural sugar found in milk and dairy products, you are considered lactose intolerant. Some individuals may not be fully intolerant, but rather lactose sensitive, meaning they can only digest lactose in small amounts. The body needs an enzyme normally produced in the small intestine called lactase in order to digest lactose. Signs of an intolerance to lactose include:
Gurgling or rumbling sounds in your stomach
Loose stools or diarrhea
Throwing up or feeling like you have to throw up
Who Experiences Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is common in adults. It usually runs in families. Individuals of Asian, South American, Native American, and African descent tend to be more susceptible to the condition. While rare, there are instances of babies that are born intolerant. Some individuals may become lactose intolerant after a severe bout of stomach flu or following surgery involving the small intestine. In some cases, it may be temporary.
It can be difficult to diagnose the condition. One way to determine if you have intolerance is to stop consuming all dairy products, see if you experience symptoms such as stomach pain or bloating, then slowly start consuming some dairy products again. A hydrogen breath test or a blood sugar test performed by your doctor may also be able to confirm the diagnosis.
Some people who are lactose intolerant may be able to consume small amounts of various dairy products. If you can consume little or no dairy, you will likely need to take nutritional supplements to make up for a lack of essential vitamins and minerals that you normally get from dairy products, such as calcium, or find dietary substitutes.
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