What is Lactose Intolerance?
If you are planning to have a baby soon, you are also probably thinking about choosing which feeding method is appropriate for the infant. Unfortunately, not all mothers will be able to breastfeed due to a combination of several health issues and external factors. Lactose intolerance can be a problem if you’re going to rely mostly on dairy products for feeding.
Causes and Risk Factors
An enzyme is present in the body that turns sugar into galactose and glucose, which should be absorbed through the lining of the intestine. A person is considered lactose intolerant if the small intestine cannot produce enough lactase, an enzyme, to digest lactose, the sugar contained in milk. Because the body cannot digest it, it is moved into the colon.
When undigested milk is in the colon, the bacteria interacts with it and causes symptoms associated with lactose intolerance such as diarrhea, bloating, cramps, painful release of gas, and nausea. The severity of the symptoms differs among people, and some who are intolerant can still tolerate a small amount of milk products.
Some people are lactose intolerant because of several factors, such as small intestine diseases, age, and ethnicity. Majority of the people who cannot break down sugar in the milk are Asian, African, American Indian, and Hispanic. If you have celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, you are most likely lactose intoleratnt, too because your body makes less lactase than others.
Types of Lactose Intolerance
Most dairy products are found in a lot of food such as milk, yogurt, ice cream, bread, baked goods, salad dressings, cereals, candy, and other products that contain whey, milk byproducts, and milk solids.
The most common type of lactose intolerance is primary lactase deficiency, a condition wherein the body produces less lactase as a person grows older. It usually starts by the time the child is aged 2 years. A similar type, called lactase nonpersistence, is caused by the decrease of activity of the LCT gene. It’s different from congenital lactase deficiency in which the small intestine produces almost no lactase, also caused by a defect in the LCT gene.
Another type is the secondary lactase deficiency which happens if another condition causes damage to the small intestine. Most people who have Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, infectious enteritis, and other related conditions are more likely to become lactose intolerant if not treated.
Treatment and Lifestyle
There is no cure for the condition, but you can alter your lifestyle to avoid symptoms. Knowing your tolerance for dairy products will also help and will still let you enjoy milk, cheese, and yogurt. It’s not advisable to exclude dairy products completely especially in a child’s diet because it is a rich source of calcium.
Fortunately, there are lactose-free and lactose-reduced products in Singapore which will make life easier for some people. The doctor can also recommend lactase enzyme supplement to avoid diarrhea, cramping, bloating, and gas whenever you feel like eating ice cream. You can also substitute some dairy products with food that are rich in calcium such as soy milk, broccoli, tofu, and beans.