How to recognize symptoms of lactose intolerance?

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Can you imagine your day without milk? We can’t. Unfortunately, not everybody can say the same thing. There is a group of people with a so-called lactose intolerance. Do you know what this means?

If you are not sure, read more about what lactose intolerance is, about the typical signs of lactose intolerance, how to find out you have a milk allergy or what the difference is between a classic allergy and a milk allergy and how to find this difference as soon as possible.

Because we are interested in everything connected to families and babies, we cannot omit writing about lactose intolerance in babies and how to know for sure if your baby has a milk allergy.

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose. Humans, generally, can’t digest lactose completely. What our body does is it splits the lactose into smaller pieces and gradually decomposes it piece by piece.

Today, we know three types of lactose intolerance:

  1. Primary lactose intolerance
  2. Secondary lactose intolerance
  3. Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance

Let’s start with primary lactose intolerance which is the most common type of lactose intolerance. This type of intolerance is genetically determined and strongly connected to the amount of the lactase enzyme in our organism. A person’s amount of the enzyme lactase in his body is determined at birth. We generally have the largest amounts of the hormone during the first two years of our lives.

As babies, we are able to utilize all the nutrients from maternity milk. But as children replace milk with other foods, the lactase production slowly decreases the amount of enzyme until it achieves a stated point. For some people, this point is lower than others and their amount of lactase decreases more, making their body unable to process milk and milk products correctly. These are the people that have lactose intolerance.

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The second known type of lactose intolerance (secondary lactose intolerance) arises because of the damage to the small intestinal mucosa. The cause to this can be illnesses such as celiac or Crohn’s disease or some other infectious diseases of the digestive tract. But the secondary lactose intolerance can also develop after the use of some medication, after a surgical operation of the digestive tract or after chemotherapy and radiation. Secondary lactose intolerance is rarer than the first type of lactose intolerance.

Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance is extremely rare. In the past, infants with developmental lactose intolerance couldn’t survive. Their chances of survival rapidly increased in the 20th century thanks to new lactose-free milk substitutions. Today, thanks to these lactose-free foods, babies with developmental lactose intolerance can live through the first years of their lives and live a full-blown life in the future.

What causes lactose intolerance?

Honestly, we don’t know why some people are lactose-intolerant and others are not. The latest scientific news shows that maybe genetics play a role. But one of the many types of research showed that there are ethnicities and geographic regions with a higher percentage of people with lactose intolerance. Here they are:

lactose intolerance in ethnicity and geographic regions

Signs of lactose intolerance: Am I lactose intolerant?

How to find milk intolerance symptoms? It’s easy. Check the following list of the main symptoms and find the answers if your difficulties are the symptoms of being lactose intolerant or if it is necessary to look for the cause somewhere else:

And the others …

Prevalence of lactose intolerance symptoms

Even though these are the main symptoms of milk intolerance, the intensity of the difficulties can vary significantly. Someone might feel only a mild pain and have small difficulties and someone else feels a strong pain and must call an ambulance immediately.

What can’t you eat if you are lactose intolerant?

As you probably know, there are a lot of various foods which can cause your health problems.

Here is the list of the riskiest foods which could hurt you:

  • All types of milk (whole milk, semi-skimmed milk, acidophil milk, milk powder …)
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cream
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Kefir
  • Whey
  • Buttermilk
  • Pudding

The important thing you have to keep in mind is that the source of the milk doesn’t play a role. Lactose is a natural component in all kinds of milk.

Lactose Content of Common Food

There are a lot of foods which contain milk but it’s not obvious at first sight. Here is the list of them:

  • Pastry
  • Wafers
  • Chocolate
  • Energy bars
  • Instant meals
  • Sausages
  • Margarine

Did you know that lactose is also a part of pills? Isn’t it surprising? Lactose is used as a filling in the pills. You will recognize the pill containing the lactose by its white color. It’s fortunate that these days, there are alternatives to these so it is no problem to find the same type of pills without the added lactose.

Also, some people affected by lactose intolerance can consume a small amount of dairy without any symptoms. Others will have a problem every time they eat food containing even the smallest amount of lactose.Hidden Sources of Lactose

Lactose intolerance in babies: Does your baby have a milk intolerance?

As we wrote before, babies can very rarely be born with lactose intolerance. Most often when this happens, both parents are the bearers of the lactose intolerance gene and the baby inherits this disposition.

Milk intolerance symptoms in babies are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Bloating
  • Gas

If your baby is lactose-intolerant, you can expect and keep watch for these symptoms from 30 minutes to 2 hours after breastfeeding or eating dairy products like cheese or yogurt if you have an older offspring.

Dairy intolerance tests

Dairy Lactose Intolerance Tests

If you are not sure whether your lactose intolerant or not, there are some tests you can take:

Lactose Intolerance Test:

The lactose intolerance test finds out the reaction of your body to liquids containing a high level of lactose. During the test, you drink liquid with lactose and after two hours, your blood is tested. If your glucose level doesn’t rise, it means that your body isn’t properly digesting and absorbing the lactose-filled drink.

Hydrogen Breath Test:

During a hydrogen breath test, you also drink a liquid containing high levels of lactose. Then a doctor measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath. Normally, the amount of hydrogen isn’t very high. But if your body has a problem with lactose digestion, the amount of hydrogen rises.

Stool Acidity Test:

Stool acidity test is used for the detection of lactose intolerance in infants or babies. The fermenting of undigested lactose creates lactic acids which can be detected in stool.