Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder caused by the body's inability to digest lactose . This condition is often characterized by diarrhea, flatulence, and frequent flatulence after consuming food or drink containing lactose, such as milk or its processed products .
The body uses a natural enzyme called lactase to convert lactose into glucose and galactose. Glucose and galactose are then absorbed and used as an energy source.
In people with lactose intolerance, the body does not produce the enzyme lactase in sufficient quantities. As a result, undigested lactose enters the large intestine and is fermented by bacteria. This condition causes symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is often confused with a milk allergy , even though the two conditions are very different. Milk allergy occurs as a result of the immune system's reaction to the proteins found in milk.
In addition, milk allergies not only cause digestive tract disorders and shortness of breath, but also cause red, itchy rashes.
Causes of Lactose Intolerance
The causes of this condition can vary. The following are various causes of lactose intolerance by type:
Primary lactose intolerance
Primary lactose intolerance is caused by genetic factors passed down from parents. This condition occurs when lactase production decreases with age. Usually, primary lactose intolerance begins at the age of 2 years, but new complaints appear when entering adolescence or adulthood.
Secondary lactose intolerance
Secondary lactose intolerance occurs as a result of decreased lactase production caused by celiac disease , Crohn's disease , intestinal infections, or colitis. Decreased lactase production can also occur due to the effects of chemotherapy or long-term use of antibiotics.
Lactose intolerance in development
This type of lactose intolerance occurs due to incomplete development of the baby's intestines at birth. Usually, this condition occurs in babies with premature births . However, this type of lactose intolerance is only temporary and gets better as the baby gets older.
Congenital lactose intolerance
Congenital lactose intolerance is caused by a genetic disorder passed down from both parents. Babies with this condition are born with little or no lactase enzyme at all.
This type of lactose intolerance is very rare.
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
Symptoms of lactose intolerance usually appear 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming food or drinks that contain lactose. These symptoms include:
- Frequent passing of wind
- Abdominal pain
- Stomach sounds "krucuk-krucuk" ( borborygmi )
- Nausea and vomiting
Each person with lactose intolerance can experience different symptoms. The severity of symptoms also depends on how much lactose is consumed.
When to see a doctor
Check with your doctor if you or your child experience the above symptoms after consuming milk or foods made from milk. The aim is to make sure the symptoms are not caused by a cow's milk protein allergy, irritable bowel syndrome ( irritable bowel syndrome ), colitis, or celiac disease .
If you or your child is diagnosed with lactose intolerance , consult a doctor or nutritionist about the right diet.
Diagnosis of Lactose Intolerance
To diagnose lactose intolerance, the doctor will ask about the symptoms experienced, the last food or drink consumed, the patient's medication history, and the patient's and family's medical history.
After that, the doctor will carry out a physical examination to check the patient's condition and detect if there are other diseases.
To make a diagnosis, the doctor will carry out several further tests, such as:
Lactose tolerance test
In this test, the patient will be asked to consume a drink high in lactose (sugar). After that, 2 hours later, the doctor will do a blood test to measure the glucose level in the patient's blood. If the level of glucose in the blood does not increase, it means that the patient's body does not absorb lactose properly.
Milk tolerance test
The milk tolerance test aims to measure the patient's blood sugar level. Before this test is carried out, the patient will be asked to consume a glass (500 ml) of milk. If the patient's blood sugar level does not increase after consuming milk, it can be suspected that the patient is suffering from lactose intolerance.
Hydrogen content test
The doctor will ask the patient to fast a few hours before the test, then the patient will be asked to consume drinks with high lactose levels. After that, the doctor will measure the level of hydrogen in the patient's breath every 15 minutes for several hours.
If the hydrogen level in the patient's breath is high, there is a possibility that the patient has lactose intolerance. This occurs because undigested lactose is fermented in the large intestine and produces more hydrogen than normal.
Stool acidity test
This test is usually used to diagnose lactose intolerance in infants or young children, as other tests are more difficult to apply to them.
The stool acidity test is carried out by measuring the level of lactic acid in the patient's stool sample. Lactic acid can be formed due to the fermentation process of undigested lactose. In other words, if there is lactic acid in the stool, it can be suspected that the patient has lactose intolerance.
Lactose Intolerance Treatment
Until now, there has not been found a treatment for lactose intolerance and a way to increase lactase production. Even so, the doctor will ask the patient to limit consumption of foods that contain lactose or consume lactose-free foods, to avoid complaints.
Therefore, patients need to pay attention to the composition of food and drinks before consuming them. The following are food sources of lactose that need to be limited or avoided:
- Milk, such as cow's or goat's milk
- Dairy products, such as cheese, ice cream, yogurt or butter
- Other foods, such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate, candy, mayonnaise, ready-to-eat french fries, packaged instant soups, processed meats, and bread or cereal
To replace cow's milk and goat's milk, patients can choose milk made from soy, wheat or almond d . In addition, yogurt made from soybeans or coconut, several types of cheese, and other foods marked as free of lactose, are also safe for consumption.
Consuming foods that contain lactose gradually can also be tried to help the body adapt to digesting lactose. However, this should be done on the advice and under the supervision of a doctor.
Additional treatment with probiotic intake can also be done. Besides being often used to treat digestive disorders, such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome , probiotics can also help the body digest lactose. However, these efforts should be consulted with a doctor first.
Complications of Lactose Intolerance
Milk and dairy products contain calcium, protein, and important vitamins, such as vitamins A, B12, and vitamin D. In addition, lactose also functions to help the body absorb minerals, such as magnesium and zinc.
These vitamins and minerals are very useful for the health of the body. Therefore, people with lactose intolerance do not get these vitamins and minerals. As a result, sufferers can experience complications in the form of:
- Malnutrition or lack of nutrients
To get calcium intake apart from milk and its derivative products, you can eat fish, such as sardines and mackerel, or green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli. However, it would be better if you consult with a doctor or nutritionist about the diet that is right for you.
Lactose Intolerance Prevention
Lactose intolerance cannot be prevented. However, if you suffer from this condition, limit consumption of foods or drinks that contain lactose or completely avoid it so that symptoms do not appear.