How to find out if you're lactose intolerant
Lactose intolerance, an increasingly common condition, is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products, causing side effects, such as stomach pain and nausea. It can be caused by genetics, but can also be acquired later in life, sometimes even due to damage sustained to the small intestine. Although some people react to it in different ways, some acutely, some mildly, there is no real cure for lactose intolerance. Rather, it is something which can be treated as you live your life. if you find yourself feeling a bit iffy after consuming lactose products, you might want to read on at oneHOWTO to know how to find out if you are lactose intolerant.
It is the lactose found in dairy products that makes it difficult for some people to digest. An enzyme called lactase is required to digest lactose properly. All humans are born with sufficient levels of lactase, given that babies need to be able to digest breast milk for healthy growth and survival.
However, as we get older, the levels of lactase in the body decreases. Why does this happen? Well, like all mammals, as we grow up we become omnivores and no longer need milk to sustain us.
However, humans are the only mammals that, as adults, continue to consume milk and other dairy products - not because our body needs it, as calcium can be found in non-dairy food - but simply out of habit and tradition. Despite continuing to consume dairy, our bodies have less lactase than when we were babies, making it very difficult to digest lactose in the same way.
If you have a particularly low level of lactase in your body, it is likely that you will eventually become lactose intolerant. But what are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
Whilst it's true that digesting lactose is fairly difficult for all humans, not all people are intolerant. The main signs of lactose intolerance, which appear after drinking milk, consuming cheese (especially fresh cheeses, rich in lactose), yogurt, ice cream and butter are:
- Stomach inflammation
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Flatulence (normally foul smelling)
As you can see, lactose intolerance is not simply a matter of feeling bloated after eating dairy; it causes many other, clear symptoms which are hard to ignore. There are several levels of intolerance: some people with moderate intolerance can drink milk without too much discomfort, whereas people with an acute intolerance suffer badly.
Other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease prevent the body from digesting milk products properly. Many, but not all, of these sufferers are lactose intolerance also.
So, what should you do if you suffer from lactose intolerance? The first step you should take is to visit a gastroenterologist for a complete check-up and examination. Consulting a specialist is advisable: they can inform you of non-dairy foods rich in calcium and guide you on how to change your diet, whilst also gauging how much dairy you can consume without feeling unwell or uncomfortable.
If you get a negative result form a dairy intolerance test, but you still feel uncomfortable or unwell after eating dairy products, it's likely that you have a different condition, as we mentioned briefly above.
This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.
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