Lactose intolerance causes people to have trouble properly digesting the sugar that is found in milk, which is called lactose. Lactose intolerance can develop at any time.
Causes of Lactose Intolerance
When you are lactose intolerant, your small intestine is not able to make enough lactase that is needed for digesting lactose. In normal conditions, the lactase enzyme helps turn lactose into sugars that enter your bloodstream. If this doesn’t happen, then lactose enters your colon instead of your bloodstream. Bacteria in your colon react to lactose, which results in symptoms of this condition.
You can have different kinds of lactose intolerance. Primary lactose intolerance is the most common one. While people with this condition typically have enough lactase during childhood, this can change in adulthood. As an adult with this condition, your body stops making enough lactase to handle milk products. Secondary lactose intolerance that occurs due to other medical conditions and congenital lactose intolerance are the other types.
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
You might experience symptoms of this condition roughly 30 minutes or a couple of hours after you have milk or other products containing lactose. These symptoms include the following:
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
You should see your doctor if you have been getting symptoms of lactose intolerance. This can help ensure that you manage this condition so that your body gets enough calcium.
Treatment for Lactose Intolerance
There are no medical treatments that can correct lactose intolerance or increase your lactase levels. Instead, your doctor can recommend making changes to your diet that can help reduce symptoms. This might mean only having small amounts of milk and dairy products at a time or switching to products that have lower levels of lactose. There are also powders you can add to milk to help break down lactose so that you don’t have to avoid drinking it altogether.
Your doctor might also recommend increasing certain foods in your diet to ensure that you get plenty of calcium, such as broccoli, spinach, milk substitutes, and calcium-fortified products. You'll also need to make sure that you have eggs and other foods that are high in vitamin D if you are drinking lower amounts of vitamin D fortified milk. Keep in mind that dairy products vary in the amounts of lactose they have. While some foods might bother you, others might not cause any symptoms.
If you are dealing symptoms of lactose intolerance, contact Gotham Gastroenterology for an appointment. Our specialists can offer a special diet plan tailored to your needs for lactose intolerance.