Lactose Intolerance in Seattle, WA
Lactose intolerance is the body’s inability to break down a natural sugar called lactose found in dairy products. This results in gastrointestinal discomfort and symptoms including gas, bloating and diarrhea. In well-functioning digestive tracts, lactase enzymes break down lactose into two simpler forms of sugar: glucose and galactose. These simple sugars are then absorbed into the bloodstream.
Over 65% of the population cannot adequately digest lactose after infancy due to the significant decrease in lactase enzymes. Several types of lactase deficiencies lead to intolerance. The main types include:
- Primary lactose intolerance: The most common type of lactase deficiency, lactase production begins to decline as you age, typically after the age of two, when children begin eating more types of food and consume less dairy.
- Secondary lactose intolerance: Lactase production decreases as the result of an injury or illness that damages the small intestine, such as inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease.
- Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance: The rarest form of lactase deficiency, congenital lactose intolerance is an inherited disorder where an infant is born with little to no lactase.
Despite popular belief, lactose intolerance is not the same as an allergy to cow’s milk. A milk allergy triggers an immune reaction from the proteins found in milk. While both can cause similar symptoms in the gut, they do have different origins.
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
Symptoms of lactose intolerance generally present within 30 minutes to two hours after ingesting dairy products containing lactose. These symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps and pain
Lactose Intolerance Testing and Diagnosis
If you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, a health care provider will likely test you for an intolerance. Before making a diagnosis, you may be asked to remove dairy products and other common foods that cause similar reactions from your diet by using an elimination diet. This will check to see if the elimination of dairy for a short period allows symptoms to subside.
The most common lactose intolerance tests are:
- Blood test to measure your body’s reaction to a liquid containing high lactose levels
- Hydrogen breath test to measure hydrogen levels after consuming lactose. A large amount of hydrogen exhaled indicates you are not properly digesting lactose.
- Stool acidity test to measure lactic acids in infants and children unable to undergo other testing.
Lactose Intolerance Treatment
Currently, there is no treatment that can increase your body’s production of lactase enzymes. Typical treatment for lactose intolerance includes limiting or removing milk products from your diet. These products can often be replaced with lactose-free alternatives commonly found in grocery stores. If you plan on consuming a beverage or food containing lactose, a lactase supplement can potentially help to breakdown the lactose if taken ahead of the dairy consumption. To receive adequate calcium, your health care provider may recommend you incorporate other calcium-rich foods into the diet or through supplementation.
Request more information about Lactose Intolerance today. Call (206) 966-4522 or contact Marina Abrams online.
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