What is lactose intolerance? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Lactose intolerance is characterized by digestive disorders, a consequence of intestinal absorption of lactose. Lactose is the main sugar found in dairy products).

Definition of lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is characterized by digestive problems as a result of the indigestion of lactose (the main milk sugar) from milk and its by-products (yogurts, cheese, etc.).

An enzyme in the body (lactase) makes it possible to transform lactose from dairy products to make it absorbable and digestible. A lactase deficiency then leads to a decrease in the body’s ability to digest lactose. The latter ferments, causes the production of fatty acids and gases. The intestinal transit is accelerated and digestive symptoms appear (diarrhea, gas, pain, bloating, etc.).

The prevalence (number of people with lactose intolerance) in France is between 30% and 50% of adults.

A test for identifying and evaluating the level of lactose intolerance is known, available and makes it possible to adapt the diet accordingly.

Causes of lactose intolerance

The origins of lactose intolerance depend on the age of the individual.

Indeed, in infants, lactose intolerance results in a generalized lactase deficiency. This is a rare condition called Congenital Lactase Deficiency.

In children, this intolerance may be the resultant and / or a side effect of gastroenteritis, for example.

It should be known that the actions of lactase decrease over time. As a result, lactose intolerance is increasingly present as the age progresses. Adults therefore form a category of people more prone to the development of lactose intolerance.

Intestinal pathologies can also be the source of a development of lactose intolerance (giardiasis, Crohn’s disease , etc.).

Who is affected by lactose intolerance?

The majority of cases of lactose intolerance are found in adults. However, children can also be confronted.

In infants, lactose intolerance is often the result of an underlying disease: congenital lactase deficiency.

Evolution and possible complications of lactose intolerance

There are few evolutions and complications related to lactose intolerance.

Moreover, this intolerance is to be differentiated from protein allergies, which can cause complications.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance

The clinical signs and symptoms associated with lactose intolerance are the consequence of a definite enzymatic activity of lactase. These result in intestinal and digestive symptoms such as:

  • intestinal pain
  • of diarrhea
  • of nausea
  • bloating
  • gases

These symptoms may be more or less important depending on the individual, the amount of lactose ingested and the level of intolerance.

Risk factors for lactose intolerance

Risk factors for lactose intolerance may be the presence of underlying gastrointestinal disease in children or adults. Or a congenital lactase deficiency in infants.

How to treat lactose intolerance?

The first step in the treatment of lactose intolerance is a depleted diet of dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurts, etc.).

A lactose intolerance test is available to assess the level of intolerance. From this assessment, the diet is adapted accordingly.

If changes in eating habits are not sufficient to optimally support lactose intolerance, treatment in the form of capsules / tablets of lactase is possible.

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