Lactose intolerance is a common health issue caused by a complete or partial deficiency of lactase, a specific digestive enzyme with a primary role in digesting lactose. Lactose is a form of sugar mostly found as an ingredient in milk – based products. The mere condition usually occurs as a primary form of illness when patient’s natural constitution lack this enzyme. Secondary lactose intolerance comes as a consequence or complication of some other health issues, surgical intervention (such as dissection of bowels), gastroenteritis or chemotherapy. Whatever the primary cause of lactose intolerance is, these patients develop digestive manifestations after consuming dairy products or any food containing lactose. The condition is usually chronic and people suffering lactose intolerance are compelled to adjust their diet and lifestyle to reduce their symptoms.
The most common presentation of lactose intolerance
Typically, symptoms of lactose intolerance involve only digestive system. The symptoms usually begin 30 minutes to few hours after digesting some food containing lactose. The manifestation begins with nausea, often followed by vomiting. The abdomen is bloated, irritated and patients suffer abdominal cramps. A lot of gasses are produced, and the dominant sign is profuse watery diarrhea. Also, the frequent sign is so called borborygmi – particularly loud rumbling in the stomach.
Sometimes, patients experience additional symptoms, such as wheezing, troubles breathing, hives and swelling of some parts of the body. These are typical manifestations of the allergy to the milk proteins and should not be confused with lactose intolerance.
Fluctuations of the symptoms
Not all the patients develop the same clinical presentation. The symptoms mostly depend on the total amount of lactose you have digested. The larger amount of lactose you take, the more intense manifestation occurs. Most patients tolerate small amounts of diary products; some even report the positive effect of this occasional bowel stimulation. But once you cross the limit dose, the symptoms will worsen. Also, the lactose intolerance caused by previous bowel disease or therapy procedure tends to show more severe clinical presentation. Co-existing illnesses make the situation worse. Babies and children show a slightly different clinical picture, mostly based on failure to thrive.
Signs of complications
Previously listed symptoms and signs are caused by mere lactose intolerance. However, since the elimination of dairy products from your diet will deprive you of daily intake of D vitamin and calcium, if you don’t compensate these loses, you will eventually experience complications. Lack of these elements primarily affects bones, in the form of low bone density (osteopenia) leading to osteoporosis. This will cause spontaneous bone fractures, bone pain, and possible bone infections. D vitamin deficiency may affect your mental performance, and unbalanced diet may lead to malnutrition and dysfunction of some other organs other than digestive system.
How to reduce lactose intolerance symptoms
Currently, there is no definitive therapy for lactose intolerance. The majority of therapy approach consists of keeping the symptoms under control by eliminating lactose from your daily diet. If the symptoms are severe, particularly diarrhea, you might need to rehydrate the body and balance your bodily fluids and electrolytes. This happens rarely, but it requires hospitalizat