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Lactose Intolerance: What Causes An Allergy To Dairy Products?

Lactose Intolerance: What Causes An Allergy To Dairy Products?
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Lactose Intolerance

allergic to dairy


Lactose intolerance is a condition that results from the body not producing enough lactase. Lactase is the enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar that is found naturally in milk. This makes is harder for the individual to digest dairy products without getting ill. Lactose intolerance is very common, affecting about 65% of the worldwide population. The condition is not seen as life-threatening, but can cause a significant inconvenience for the patient.

What Causes Lactose Intolerance?

Many cases of lactose intolerance are genetic, while others are the result of underlying conditions including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Coeliac Disease
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Chemotherapy treatment
  • Injury to the small intestine

Types Of Lactose Intolerance

Primary Hypolactasia

This type of lactose intolerance is caused by a genetic deficiency in lactase or a deficiency in lactase with an unknown cause.

Secondary Hypolactasia

This type of lactose intolerance  occurs when an underlying condition causes lactase deficiency.

Primary Congenital Alactasia

This is the rarest form of lactose intolerance and is characterized by an extreme deficiency in lactase that is present at birth. Infants with primary congenital alactasia cannot even ingest breast milk without becoming ill.

Lactose Intolerance Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Cramping
  • Bloating

allergy to dairy

Diagnosing Lactose Intolerance

It can be difficult to diagnose lactose intolerance because the symptoms are similar to many other digestive issues. Your primary care physician will most likely refer you to a gastroenterologist if they suspect you have lactose intolerance. A gastroenterologist can uses tests such as a hydrogen breath test to evaluate for lactose intolerance. A hydrogen breath test requires that the patient ingest a lactose solution after fasting for 12 hours. If the lactose consumption produces hydrogen and methane in the patient’s breath, they have a lactase deficiency. Blood tests, stool tests and intestinal biopsies can also be used to diagnose lactose intolerance.

Treating Lactose Intolerance

Since lactose intolerance cannot be cured, the most effective treatment is to follow a restricted diet. Patients should avoid any products that contain milk or dairy, such as ice cream, yogurt, butter, cheese or sour cream. Some patients can take lactase supplements to help ease symptoms if they do consume dairy products.

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