Lactose intolerance is when the body cannot fully digest milk and absorb lactose found in dairy products. It is also commonly called lactase deficiency because lactase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down milk, is not produced sufficiently or completely by the digestive tract.Although it is a fairly common condition, it is not usually dangerous, though its symptoms may produce discomfort to the individual. Fortunately, diets are available for individuals that are lactose intolerant.
Lactose is the sugar commonly found in dairy products. It is composed of glucose and galactose. In individuals with lactose intolerance, lactose is not broken down into glucose and galactose to be absorbed by the bloodstream causing lactose to stay longer in the digestive tract.Because the lactose will stay intact in the digestive tract, it is fermented by bacteria causing the symptoms to appear. Lactose intolerance is different from lactose allergy as the latter will produce an allergic reaction.
Foods that contain lactose
The following are the most common foods that contain high amounts of lactose:
- Ice cream
- Bread and baked goods
- Salad dressings
*Lactose is also sometimes present in certain prescription medications such as stomach acid drugs, oral contraceptives, etc.
What are the Types of Lactose Intolerance?
There are three different types of lactose intolerance: primary, secondary and congenital.
- Primary Lactose Intolerance
- Occurs as a result of aging when lactase production decreases
- Secondary Lactose Intolerance
- Occurs as a result of injury or illness
- Congenital Lactose Intolerance (rare)
- Present at childbirth and is usually genetic
What are the Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance?
Symptoms of lactose intolerance generally manifest 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating lactose-containing products. These symptoms are almost exclusively present in the digestive tract only but may sometimes also show in other body systems. The severity of the symptoms will depend upon the amount of lactose the individual can endure, but can sometimes change from person to person.
- Nausea and sometimes, vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Voluntarily or involuntarily passing gas
How should First Aid be administered in Cases of Ingestion of Lactose in Individuals with Lactose Intolerance?
There is no medication that can cure lactose intolerance. Most cases of lactose intolerance are mild can be managed at home even without medical advice. With administration of first aid, symptoms may be alleviated and reduce discomfort.
- Avoid the source of lactose. Always ensure that the food is free from lactose. There are substitutes available.
- For people who show symptoms of lactose intolerance even at very minimal, Lactaid, an over-the-counter lactase enzyme replacement may be taken.
- Do not induce vomiting unless advised by the doctor.
- If there is diarrhoea, ensure that the individual does not get dehydrated. Drink water frequently.
- To help relive gas pain, the individual may lie on his/ her stomach.