What is it?
Lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem where the body is unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products.
How is it caused?
The body digests lactose by using an enzyme called lactase to break down lactose into two simpler sugars called glucose and galactose, which can then be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Enzymes are proteins that cause chemical reactions to occur.
In cases of lactose intolerance, the body does not produce enough of the lactase enzyme so lactose stays in the digestive system, where it is fermented by bacteria (in the same way that yeast is fermented to produce beer). It’s this fermentation process that causes the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.
Levels of lactase often fall as people grow older and some health conditions can also reduce the production of lactase.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of lactose intolerance will occur after consuming food or drink that contains lactose, such as dairy products.
The main symptoms include:
Diarrhoea three or more times a day
What problems does it cause?
Bone Loss/Osteoporosis - This is caused due to the lack of dairy products in the diet which are crucial for healthy bones.
Failure To Thrive - Infants with lactose intolerance are unable to digest breast milk and may experience constant diarrhoea that can lead to dehydration and reduced growth and weight gain.
Vitamin D Deficiency - Due to not ingesting enough vitamin D
How can it be treated?
Limiting the intake of food and drink containing lactose is the main treatment for lactose intolerance.
Depending on a person’s levels of intolerance, they may also require additional calcium and vitamin D supplements to keep the bones strong and healthy.
Lactase substitutes are also available. These are drops that you can add to your...