Milk and milk products have a unique sugary taste, and the reason is that there is the presence of lactose. Lactose is a disaccharide sugar whose main compositions are glucose and galactose. A human being is well acquainted with the taste of lactose almost since birth, as milk is the first food that an infant consumes. Therefore, most people are able to digest milk and milk products easily. But, still, after an age, there is a certain population who finds it difficult to consume milk and milk products as the digestive system does not work well on them as their ability to digest the lactose present in the milk reduces. Difficulty in digesting lactase occurs as there is a lack of lactase enzyme in the small intestine. Lack of lactase enzyme is because these enzymes are the highest in an infant’s body but keep reducing with age.
What is usually supposed to happen is, once the lactose gets into your body, it will ideally be digested in the small intestine, and this digestion is made easier by the lactase enzyme present in the small intestine. The lactase enzyme breaks down the lactose into glucose and galactose, which helps in further digestion and faster metabolism. But, if there is a deficiency in the lactase enzyme in the body, then lactose is difficult to be broken down and digested. Then, the lactose, instead of being digested, moves to the colon/large intestine and is digested by the normal bacteria present there. This causes various levels of discomfort, and this condition is known as lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance affects more than half of the world population. Even though this condition is not harmful, there is no cure, and one should learn to manage the symptoms. The lactose intolerance symptoms can also cause mild to severe discomfort in your body.
Lactose intolerance can be identified by the following signs and symptoms
One of the most common symptoms of lactose intolerance is bloating. Once the lactose, unsuccessful in being digested, reaches the colon, it is digested and fermented by the bacteria present there, this process produces a lot of gas and water, which in turn causes bloating of the stomach. Bloating will make your stomach look swollen, and you will feel heavier and uncomfortable. Cutting down on milk for a few weeks to see if the bloating persists will help you determine whether you have lactose intolerance. If bloating is causing problems, consult a doctor, and prepare an alternative diet chart eliminating milk and eating other calcium-rich food.
Anything you eat, which cannot be easily digested, causes huge discomfort in the stomach. Stomach ache or an upset stomach is a common phenomenon in almost everyone’s life due to the digestion and gas problem. In this case, the lactose in the milk is not being digested, but it passes on to the colon, where it is fermented by the natural bacteria, which releases fatty acids and different types of gases like hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane. The release of all the acids and gases cause mild to sharp stomach pain. These can also lead to nausea and vomiting too. If someone has this symptom, then he should think about avoiding dairy products, but before doing so, he has to ensure that the stomach ache is due to lactose intolerance and not because of any other health issue.
Diarrhea, also means loose motion, is also a common symptom of any stomach digestion problem due to overeating or eating that food, which upset stomach. Diarrhea is characterized by frequent liquid stool, which also increases in volume. In the case of lactose, which is fermented by the bacteria in the colon, it leads to the release of fatty acids and gases. Most of the acid and gas gets absorbed by the colon. But some of it becomes leftover, which increases the amount of water in the colon, this causes diarrhea. Sometimes, diarrhea may be dangerous as it reduces the water level in the body and disrupts the electrolyte balance. So, diarrhea is a symptom; then, it should be checked and watched out for. But, again, make sure that, before avoiding dairy products, that the diarrhea is caused by only lactose intolerance as certain medications, infections, bowel problems may show similar symptoms.
Lactose intolerance can also cause severe intestinal gas problems, which may be very embarrassing and may cause physical discomfort. As discussed above, the gas is produced by the fermentation of the lactose by the bacteria in the colon. The gas may or may not have an odor but can cause extreme pain. To ease the gas problem, you may take the relevant medicine. It is always better to consult a doctor to know the underlying cause before taking any medicine.
Vomiting and Nausea:
Nausea and vomiting may be signs of lactose intolerance in some people who are not able to digest the lactose easily. As you have difficulty in digesting the lactose, this causes an upset stomach, and vomiting tendency shows up. Depending on the quantity intake, vomiting can easily occur, thereby causing physical discomfort and weakness.
Constipation occurs when the stool in the excretory system becomes thick, and it gets difficult to excrete the stool. Excess straining is required to enable bowel movement and its excretion. As methane is produced in lactose intolerance, methane slows down the food movement through the gut and thereby causing constipation in some people. It is a rare symptom of lactose intolerance, though, and there can be other causes of constipation too.
Chronic Fatigue is also associated with lactose intolerance in certain cases. A lot of people are experiencing Fatigue due to lactose intolerance because there is extreme pressure on the body to digest the lactose. Fatigue may show a drastic change in energy level, lethargy, and disinterest in doing anything. Some patients have shown that having less quantity of lactose has helped them prevent this particular lactose intolerance symptom.
Gradual weight loss may be a lactose intolerance symptom too, where the weight loss may be so gradual that one may realize it after a long time. Indigestion problems cause too much diarrhea, which will reduce the water quantity in the body and will cause weight loss. Nausea can also be a problem with weight loss. Nausea always results in loss of appetite, and less consumption of food will show significant loss in weight within a small span of time.
Grumbling sound in the Stomach Region:
Along with the other symptoms, a grumbling sound may be experienced by some people in the belly region after the consumption of lactose products. This grumbling sound occurs as there is a lot of movement of the food, liquid, digestive juices, and gases. This grumbling sound is the result of the lactose not being able to digest easily.
Loss of concentration and headache:
Lactose Intolerance symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal symptoms in nature. But there can be other symptoms in rare cases, where a person may be having a headache or lightheadedness due to the formation of gas in the body. Constipation due to lactose intolerance may also lead to lightheadedness. In certain rare cases, the other above problems may also show signs of loss of concentration.
Lactose Intolerance is not a very serious issue, but it can degrade your quality of life due to constant discomfort, pain, and other symptoms showing up all the time. Therefore, it is necessary to consult a doctor and make a good diagnosis of the symptoms and get it treated. It is not necessary that the symptoms mentioned above will always cause lactose intolerance, as it is just one condition that may show these symptoms. Try to avoid dairy products and instead supplement with other lactose-free products like soy products. The doctor may also prescribe oral lactase enzymes or other over the counter medicine, which will help in producing more lactase enzymes. It has also been surveyed that some people with lactose intolerance conditions can still digest very small quantities of milk or other forms of dairy products like yogurt, cheese. Some people may find milk with cereal easier to digest. Hence, how lactose intolerance should be managed or treated shall have to decide from case to case basis as each person has a different requirement, and there are no one formulae for this. Once it is managed and taken care of, the lactose intolerance symptoms will also disappear.