Understanding Lactose Intolerance: Navigating Dietary Challenges and Health Solutions

Lactose intolerance can be assumed if typical symptoms appear an hour or two after consuming dairy products, and it can be determined that dairy products are the cause of the symptoms.

Understanding Lactose Intolerance: Navigating Dietary Challenges and Health Solutions

A person with lactose intolerance is unable to digest lactose, a sugar present in milk and other dairy products. It results from a deficiency in the lactase enzyme, which helps convert lactose into simpler forms that the body can absorb.

Lactose can result in unpleasant sensations like bloating, gas, and diarrhea if it isn’t adequately broken down. Lactose intolerance is often confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The IBS and lactose intolerance symptoms are very similar in relation to milk consumption. Furthermore, research on people with IBS has revealed that lactose-free milk triggers the same symptoms as lactose in such people; this may suggest that the underlying condition is IBS.

Currently, there are approximately 57% confirmed cases of lactose intolerance in the world. However, the distribution of cases globally is quite unequal, and the real prevalence is thought to be more than 65%.

According to a comparison of children from Pakistan and the Middle East, Jewish children in Israel are twice as affected (61%) as our children. In America, it is roughly 50%; in Asia, 70%; and in Africa, almost 100%. In the US, it is 53% for Mexican-Americans, 15% for whites, and 80% for Afro-Americans. The prevalence is roughly 28% in Europe; however, it varies greatly across the continent. It varies from 2% in Scandinavia to 70% in southern Italy.

There are a few techniques to determine whether you are lactose intolerant or not, if you suspect you might be lactose intolerant. One way is to cut out dairy products from your diet. To do this, you must eliminate all dairy products for a certain period, usually two to four weeks, from your diet.

If, during this time, your symptoms get better, you probably have lactose intolerance. Common symptoms of lactose intolerance include diarrhoea, gas, bloating, weight loss, and pain in the stomach after eating dairy products.

Lactose intolerance can be assumed if typical symptoms appear an hour or two after consuming dairy products, and it can be determined that dairy products are the cause of the symptoms. This can be further confirmed by the hydrogen breath test and the lactose tolerance test.

There are four main reasons for lactase deficiency:

  1. Primary Lactase Deficiency: In this case, with increasing age, lactase enzyme activity gradually decreases.
  2. Secondary Lactase Deficiency: This type of lactase deficiency is due to an injury, infection, or inflammation of the intestinal mucosa.
  3. Congenital Lactase Deficiency: In this type of lactase deficiency, lactase enzyme activity has decreased or been absent since birth because of autosomal recessive inheritance.
  4. Developmental lactase deficiency: it is observed in babies born prematurely between 28 and 37 weeks of gestation but improves along with age.

A person can deal with lactose intolerance by using lactose-free milk, taking lactase enzyme supplements before eating dairy products, drinking calcium-fortified juices, and eating calcium-enrich dairy-free foods like beans, broccoli, soy milk, or tofu. Calcium, a vitamin that is crucial for the development and maintenance of bones and teeth throughout life, is mostly found in milk and dairy products.

To obtain the calcium they require to maintain a healthy diet, those who are lactose intolerant don’t necessarily need to drink milk and dairy products. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about taking a calcium supplement if you have problems including enough calcium-rich foods in your diet on a regular basis.

There is no medication that can increase your body’s production of lactase. But by altering your diet, you can control your symptoms. To slow down digestion and prevent issues, eat other non-lactose items with any milk or lactose-containing foods you consume. Make it your habit to read food labels. To add lactose back into your diet, you should slowly add a small amount of lactose-containing food or drinks to your diet to check the level of lactose tolerance.

Prebiotics are described as food components that are not digested by the host but have positive effects due to their selective metabolism in the intestinal tract. It has also been noticed that lactic acid bacteria populations rise after consuming lactose. Due to the presence of lactic acid bacteria, milk fermentation increases lactose tolerance.

Thus, dairy products like cheese and fermented milk products like yoghurt frequently do not cause lactose intolerance symptoms when consumed as a part of a healthy and balanced diet. Probiotics may reduce symptoms of bloating in people who are lactose intolerant because the lactic acid bacteria in the probiotics contain microbial lactase, which helps the body break down lactose.

It is not possible to define a standardised therapy for these patients’ care. In fact, not every person’s intestine reacts in the same way to the many medicines that might be used to improve or restore the ability to digest lactose. Hence, a treatment plan should be developed for each patient after considering the therapy choices that would work best for that patient.