We commonly hear from people of all age groups, particularly children and elderly to be complaining of abdominal discomfort after consuming milk. Some individuals are able to tolerate a small quantity while others are unable to tolerate even a small amount. This could be due to lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance relates to insufficiency of the disaccharidase enzyme ‘lactase’ which is found in the greatest quantity in the outer membrane of the mucosal cell of the jejunum. The degree of lactase deficiency may vary in individuals. Lack of lactase does not break down the disaccharide sugar – lactose present in milk, to glucose and galactose, it passes unchanged into the large intestines where it gets converted to lactic acid by the bacteria, which subsequently cause diarrhea and other symptoms of discomfort, distension and abdominal pain. The problem is gene related and often seen in infants and young children commonly, but may also present in adults.
Common Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance include:
Anorexia and nausea, Intestinal distention, Abdominal cramps, Gas and flatulence, severe diarrhea, Under – nutrition and loss of weight.
Diagnostic tests are available to provide information about the level and activity of the lactase enzyme. Depending on the level of activity, the dietary treatment could be planned .