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How Do I Know I Have Lactose Intolerance

Updated on July 29, 2017

Have you heard someone say that they cannot eat certain types of food or that they cannot drink milk because they are suffering from a condition called lactose intolerance? I'm sure most of us have heard this line before.

Lactose is the sugar that gives milk its natural sweet taste. It is naturally found in cow's milk and accounts for 2 to 8 percent of the total weight of milk.


Just what is this lactose intolerance that some people claim to suffer from? First of all, lactose intolerance is not a form of allergy but an abnormal condition that occurs in the stomach during the process of digestion.

Lactose intolerance is a condition where the body cannot "tolerate" milk and other milk products when ingested into the system. It happens when the digestive system is not able to properly digest lactose and various other dairy products that contain milk due to the absence of lactase, a kind of enzyme that converts the more complex lactose to glucose and galactose, two simple sugars that are easily digested in the stomach and easily released into the bloodstream.


Lactose intolerance occurs when the body cannot absorb lactose due to an insufficient amount of the enzyme lactase in the body.

In the absence of lactase, lactose, when ingested through the diet cannot be properly absorbed in the small intestines. Instead, it goes straight to the colon unprocessed. When it reaches the colon, it is there where the bacteria present breaks down the lactose content.

The action of bacteria in the lactose undergoes a process called fermentation which produces a large amount of gas such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane. When these gases start to accumulate and act up in the body, that is when symptoms of lactose intolerance are felt such as stomach cramps, flatulence, diarrhea and vomiting..

Some people believe they cannot tolerate lactose in their body but they still have a normal lactose digestion.


The most common signs of lactose intolerance is upset stomach after drinking milk or after eating foods containing milk and other dairy products. You may also feel bloated in the abdomen, sometimes experience cramps, flatulence, diarrhea and nausea.

A rumbling sound in your stomach is also a sign that you are lactose intolerant. Vomiting is the most common symptom of lactose intolerance among adolescents.


Treatment is done by eliminating dairy products from the diet, taking lactase supplements, and using lactase treated dairy products.

If dairy products are eliminated from the diet, alternative sources of calcium should be made available to the person as the supply of calcium should not be disrupted just because that person is suffering from lactose intolerance disorder.


Lactose intolerance, also called lactase deficiency, is classified into three types:

Primary Lactose Deficiency

Primary lactose intolerance is the most common type of this condition. It is genetic in nature which means that you already have this at the time you were born. Primary adult hypolactasia is the most common type.

Acquired Lactose Intolerance

A person who suffers from this condition was not born with the symptoms but only developed the condition due to an injury to the person's small intestine. The injury could have been caused by parasites in the intestinal tract, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, chemotherapy and other factors that could have damaged the stomach and the gastrointestinal tract.

Congenital Lactose Deficiency

This is a very rare genetic disorder where babies are not able to obtain lactose from the time they were born making it impossible for them to digest breast milk.


Children who might have lactose intolerance disorder can be clinically diagnosed using lactose elimination technique or by conducting a non-invasive hydrogen breath testing or intestinal biopsy determination of lactose concentrations.

Lactose Intolerance

© 2013 Zee Mercado


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