Lactose intolerance acts differently in everyone and can even change within the same person at various times, in various situations. Some lactose intolerance starts early in life in infants who produce no lactase. It’s a genetic form of lactose intolerance and occurs most prominently in people of East Asian and North American Indigenous lineage. It can also occur in premature infants. As children grow older, the need for lactase diminishes as other foods are introduced. If the production diminishes enough, lactose intolerance occurs. Sometimes, antibiotics, illnesses, accidents or surgery can cause lactase to be reduced, making the person lactose intolerant.
What causes the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
Your body produces lactase, an enzyme that changes lactose into glucose and galactose, which then is absorbed through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. If you don’t produce enough lactase, the milk product doesn’t break down, it goes to the colon undigested. In the colon, water enters the picture, to dilute the lactose. That causes diarrhea. Microbes in the colon then eat the lactose, producing gas as a byproduct. That causes the cramping and bloating people feel after consuming milk products.
Stomach pain, diarrhea and gas are symptoms of lactose intolerance.
A short time after eating dairy, if you find yourself bloated and gassy, you may be lactose intolerant, especially if that gas is extremely unpleasant. That’s from the fermentation in your colon, which is methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The body produces more acid, which can cause even more pain and the bloating can sometime be so rapid and so much that it’s excessively painful. Even if you have a flat tummy before, the distention can make you look like you’re ready to deliver a baby if you have a severe case.
There are other less common symptoms of lactose intolerance.
While most people experience gas, diarrhea and stomach pain in various degrees, not everyone reacts the same. Constipation can be a problem that occurs from the methane gas produced slowing the food moving through the intestines. Fatigue, headache, inability to focus, joint and muscle pain, eczema, mouth ulcers and problems urinating can also be symptoms, but normally very rare ones. A more severe problem is a milk allergy, which can also have vomiting, diarrhea, eczema and stomach pain, but may include asthma and anaphylaxis, which are far more serious and can be fatal.
- You can identify lactose intolerance by using an elimination diet or keeping a food diary that includes the after effects of a meal. If you find you have symptoms of lactose intolerance only after you consume milk products, you probably do have the problem. Remove dairy from your diet to be sure.
- Although all studies show that lactose intolerance is primarily genetic, there is evidence that changing your gut microbiome—the microbes that aid in digestion—can help.
- Exercise can increase the number of beneficial microbes and some people find the more exercise they get, the less dairy tends to affect them.
- If you think you have lactose intolerance based on a food diary or elimination diet, check with your doctor to make sure that’s what it is and not something else causing malabsorption. A hydrogen breath test can be given by your doctor to identify whether it’s lactose intolerance or not.
For more information, contact us today at Body Sculptors Personal Training