Lactose intolerance is the condition that occurs when the body has difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk-based products. This results in gas, bloating and diarrhea after consuming dairy products. It is caused by a deficiency in lactase, which is the enzyme responsible for digesting lactose. Lactose intolerance is a harmless condition but the symptoms can be uncomfortable.
The symptoms occur after consuming dairy products and include:
- Abdominal pain
Lactose intolerance can be primary or secondary. Primary lactose intolerance is genetically determined and occurs more in people of African, Hispanic, Asian and Mediterranean descent. Secondary lactose intolerance is due to an infection, injury, surgery or disease of the small bowel (such as Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
The diagnosis can be made clinically if the symptoms are typical and resolve with avoiding dairy products. If needed a hydrogen breath test can be performed to detect lactose intolerance.
The treatment options include:
- Avoiding dairy products
- Buying lactose reduced or lactose free products
- Using Lactase supplements before consuming any lactose containing products.