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Lactose intolerance occurs because a person’s small intestine does not make enough of an enzyme called lactase to digest the lactose naturally found in milk.

CAUSES OF LACTOSE INTOLERANCE

Lactose intolerance occurs because a person’s small intestine does not make enough of an enzyme called lactase to digest the lactose naturally found in milk.
Because lactose in milk, when ingested, must be converted into simple sugars by the small intestine lactase enzyme, glucose and galactose, to be absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining.
Thus, if there is a lack of the enzyme lactase in the small intestine, lactose will continue its journey to the large intestine, that is, the large intestine. However, in the colon, lactose cannot be digested and absorbed, on the contrary, bacteria interact here with lactose to cause digestive disorders typical of intolerance such as: bloating, gas or intestinal cramps as mentioned above. .

Based on the causes of digestible enzyme lactase deficiency, people distinguish 3 types of lactose intolerance:

  • Primary
    It is the most common type of lactose intolerance. The production of lactase enzymes in the small intestine decreases after birth and is often insufficient to digest lactose-containing milk in adulthood.

Primary lactose intolerance is linked to a genetic predisposition. This disease is common in a large portion of people of African or Asian descent and is also common in people of Mediterranean or South European descent.

  • Secondary
    Secondary lactose intolerance occurs when the small intestine has a disease, injury, or surgery that reduces the production of the enzyme lactase. Among the diseases related to the small intestine that lead to secondary lactose intolerance are celiac disease, dysbacteriosis and Crohn’s disease. If these diseases are treated well, it will be fundamentally possible to restore the required lactase enzyme levels and improve the condition.
  • Congenital
    Congenital lactose intolerance is very rare and only occurs in babies born without the lactase enzyme. The disease is inherited from generations in a family using recessive genes, which means that it only manifests if the child receives both recessive genes from both parents.

SYMPTOMS OF LACTOSE INTOLERANCE

After eating or drinking foods containing lactose for about 30 minutes to a few hours, a person with lactose intolerance may experience the following typical symptoms:

  • Abdominal bloating, bloating, gas
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Possible nausea and vomiting

RISK FACTORS FOR LACTOSE INTOLERANCE

  • Age. Lactose intolerance usually develops in adulthood and is rare in infants and young children.
  • Race. As mentioned above, lactose intolerance usually occurs in people of African, Asian, South European descent etc.
  • Children born prematurely. In this case, the concentration of the enzyme lactase in the baby’s small intestine is not sufficient to digest lactose and usually lasts until the baby is 3 months or older.
  • Diseases affecting the small intestine which impair the production of lactase enzymes which cause lactose intolerance, such as dysbiosis, celiac disease and Crohn’s disease
  • Certain special treatments, such as radiation therapy for abdominal cancer or chemotherapy which causes intestinal complications, can also directly affect your ability to produce lactase enzymes and cause lactose intolerance.

PREVENT LACTOSE INTOLERANCE

Unfortunately, there is currently no way to prevent lactose intolerance, and there is no way to increase the body’s production of the enzyme lactase. However, this disease can also be easily treated with specific measures such as:

  • Limit the consumption of foods containing lactose: avoid eating a lot of milk and dairy products or if you eat, eat only small portions of dairy products during the day. The smaller the serving, the less digestive issues it will cause.
    Consume cream and dairy products that are low in lactose. There are dairy products in supermarkets with or without lactose
  • Add a lactase enzyme to help the body digest lactose.
  • Patients should always maintain good nutrition. Due to the reduction in the consumption of dairy products, patients must find ways to supplement calcium in other ways, including foods rich in calcium such as bread, vegetables such as broccoli, spinach ( spinach), rhubarb (rhubarb), orange, juice,
    At the same time, calcium supplements should always think about taking vitamin D supplements by eating products like eggs, liver, and yogurt. Moreover, a good sunbath also helps the body to create vitamin D in a healthy and safe way.

Finally, in the experience of many lactose intolerant people, if you still want to consume dairy products that contain lactose, some of the following methods will give very positive results:

  • Practice the consumption of dairy products with caution in small amounts at the beginning and increasing gradually.
  • Eat dairy products that are high in fat, such as whole milk and cheese, instead of non-fat or low-fat dairy products.
    Drink milk with other foods. This slows down digestion and may alleviate the symptoms of lactose intolerance. Many scientific studies have proven that cocoa can also reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance. If you need to drink milk that contains lactose, drink it with chocolates.
    Consume fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, because the bacteria used in the natural fermentation process produce an enzyme that breaks down lactose.
  • Use digestive yeast tablets. Over-the-counter medicines that contain the enzyme lactase can help people digest dairy products. The patient can take the medicine just before meals or pour the medicine into the milk carton. However, you should see a specialist first, as not all people with lactose intolerance are suitable for this approach.

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Maître VIKUDO

Docteur en Physiopathologie
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