Lactose Intolerance, Part 1
What Lactose Intolerance Is
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme lactase, found in the small intestine. Lactase breaks down milk sugar into simpler forms that can then digested by the human body.
When there is not enough lactase to digest lactose, the symptoms of lactose intolerance appear. Undigested lactose remains in the colon where it is fermented by bacteria, and various gases are produced. This is what gives you the symptoms.
Not everyone who has a lactase deficiency is lactose intolerant. People who manifest symptoms are said to be lactose intolerant.
Some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance are nausea, cramps, bloating, gas, diarrhea and vomiting, which can begin hours or even a day after eating or drinking foods containing lactose. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person.
The causes of lactose intolerance are either hereditary (usually, the body?s ability to produce lactase declines over time) or caused by external factors (e.g., digestive diseases reduce the amount of lactase produced by the cells. Sometimes, children are born without the ability to produce lactase. In my case, I realized that I was lactose intolerant after my third episode of lactose intolerance symptoms. I had always been able to eat ice cream with no problems (I?m an ice cream fanatic!).
However, at age 33, I began experiencing abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting ? all night long!- after consuming ice cream. Because I had never had problems before, I assumed I had a stomach virus until my sister, who is a nurse, suggested that I developed lactose intolerance. For me, this was hard to believe until a self-test involving me taking a Lactaid tablet and then eating ice cream confirmed this ? I experienced no symptoms at all.
Certain ethnic and racial populations are more widely affected than others. About 75 percent of all African Americans and American Indians and 90 percent of Asian Americans are lactose intolerant. The condition is least common among Caucasians.
Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed by tests in the doctor?s office. The most common tests used to measure the absorption of lactose in the digestive system are the lactose tolerance test, the hydrogen breath test, and the stool acidity test. These tests are performed on an outpatient basis at a hospital, clinic, or doctor's office.
You can also test yourself for lactose intolerance by using the self-test as I described above. If you are like me, you?ll want to avoid the pain and opt for the doctor?s test. If you already know the foods which you suspect are giving you lactose intolerance symptoms, then you can try taking the Lactaid tablet and consuming the food immediately after.
About the Author: Marie Borges is a motivational writer, author and healthcare consultant. She specializes in educating and motivating clients on good nutrition, healthy eating and exercise to improve overall health and happiness. To optimize your health, receive free tips, recipes, articles and more, visit: