Lactose intolerance refers to the body’s inability to digest lactose, a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products. This digestive problem can begin at any age, but genetically-determined lactase deficiency usually occurs between ages of 5 to 21.
Patients with lactose intolerance only get symptoms after taking milk and dairy foods. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and include: abdominal pains, cramps and bloating, flatus, diarrhea and vomiting. The severity ranges from individual to individual, which may be provoked by lesser or greater quantities of lactose. Depending on the underlying cause, lactose intolerance may be permanent or temporary. For example, many cases in young children are due to intestinal infections and may only last for a few weeks.
Patients with lactose intolerance have difficulty digesting milk and dairy products. Normally, the digestive system produces an enzyme to break down lactose, the main sugar found in milk. For patients with lactose intolerance, the enzyme is not produced enough by the body or it does not work properly. This results in the excessive lactose remaining in the digestive system, where it is fermented by bacteria to produce various gases, which causes the gastrointestinal symptoms of lactose intolerance.
There is no cure for lactose intolerance. Treatment depends on how severe the condition is. In general, you can utilize self-help home remedies to avoid or control the symptoms. These include consuming less dairy food like milk, cream, cheese, butter, yogurt and ice cream. Patients with severe lactose intolerance may have to read the labels of the foods they eat to avoid lactose. Taking the appropriate enzyme supplement before eating can also help to digest lactose in the diet. For patients who are completely avoiding dairy foods, calcium or vitamin D supplements should be considered.
It does indeed sound like your granddaughter has lactose intolerance. However, you may wish to send her to the doctor for proper testing to confirm the diagnosis. gutCARE is Singapore’s leading gastroenterology practice with a team of specialists providing state-of-the-art care for liver and digestive disorders. We offer a full spectrum of niche diagnostic and therapeutic services to diagnose and recommend treatment options. For lactose intolerance, our doctor will perform a special breath test or have a blood test taken after consuming a lactose drink. Besides lactose intolerance, other common conditions which may cause her symptoms are: gastrointestinal reflux disease, functional dyspepsia, and irritable bowel syndrome. However, some uncommon conditions may also cause these symptoms. We would suggest seeing a digestive specialist to properly conduct testing of lactose intolerance and to evaluate for other conditions if the symptoms persist after reducing or stopping dairy intake.
Based on the findings, our specialist will recommend some management approaches such as reduction of milk and milk products in the diet, special lactase supplements to aid in digestion, and lactose-reduced foods that still provide an excellent source of calcium without causing gastrointestinal symptoms.
- digestive health