Lactose intolerance is a very common disease caused by the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. The lack of lactase, an enzyme that digests lactose, leads to the appearance of gastrointestinal symptoms whenever a milk-based product is consumed.
Lactose intolerance is not usually a serious illness, but the symptoms can be uncomfortable.
The typical western diet of an adult contains about 500 grams of sugars (carbohydrates). Of these, approximately 52% is starch (present in cereals, rice, and potatoes), 37% is sucrose (present in common sugar), 5% is lactose (present in milk and its derivatives) and 3% is fructose (It is found in fruits and honey).
Intolerance to milk and dairy products occurs in individuals with insufficient levels of the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for digesting lactose, the type of sugar present in milk. Lactose represents about 5% of cow’s milk generally marketed.
Lactose intolerance is not the same as milk allergy. Lactose intolerance is caused by an enzyme failure and not due to allergic processes of those suffering from food allergy.
Lactose is a disaccharide, a large sugar molecule, formed by the fusion of two simple sugars: glucose and galactose. Our body can not absorb large sugar molecules and, therefore, our digestive system has special enzymes that break down complex sugars into simple sugars (monosaccharides), allowing their absorption in the intestines.
Lactase is one of those enzymes, which is produced in the small intestine. Its action consists specifically in breaking down lactose into glucose and galactose, allowing the intestines to absorb the sugars present in the milk.
When lactase levels are insufficient, lactose is not digested in the small intestine and arrives in large quantities to the colon, a portion of the intestine rich in bacteria. Several bacteria in our intestines are able to ferment lactose, a process that results in the production of hydrogen gases and acids. In addition, lactose is a highly osmotic substance, which “removes” water and mineral salts from the wall of the colon, increasing the volume of stool.
The signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance usually begin between 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose. The most common symptoms are
- abdominal cramps
- flatulence and
- dilated abdomen.
- In adolescents, nausea and vomiting are also common.
Testing for Lactose Intolerance is very crucial to help you combat the problem of lactose intolerance.
If you are looking to identify your food sensitivities and intolerances, then please take a look around www.allergytest.co. Our customer service advisors are always on hand to help you with any queries which you may have and they will help choose the right test for you. Although we do not test for lactose intolerance, it is still important that you identify what is causing your symptoms.