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About Lactose Intolerance - Its Causes, Symptoms and Dietary Management

Wednesday, November 03, 2010
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Lactose Intolerance
What is Lactose Intolerance?

Milk contains a sugar called Lactose. So as the name suggests, lactose Intolerance (LI) is intolerance or non allergic food sensitivity to milk sugar. The enzyme lactase, produced by the cells lining the small intestine, helps digest lactose into simpler sugars e.g. Glucose and Galactose.

Deficiency of the same leads to ineffective digestion of lactose that can lead to certain serious health problems in many individuals. This could be a matter of concern especially in infants and children as milk is integral to their diet. LI has a bigger impact on those populations in whose diet Milk and dairy products play an integral role - such as Indians. can cause a lot of challenges to Indians. It is also the only source of fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids in vegetarians.

In spite of this a lot of individuals with lactose intolerance can tolerate some amount of lactose in their diet. When the enzyme lactase is deficient, the unabsorbed sugar begins to attract fluid into the bowel, increasing the volume and fluidity of the GI contents. Bacterial fermentation of the undigested products leads to gas production and excess accumulation of fluids in the bowel.

(It should be noted that people sometimes confuse lactose intolerance with milk allergy. Milk allergy can be life threatening when even a small amount of milk or milk product is consumed as it is basically a reaction by the body's immune system to one or more milk proteins Milk allergy most commonly appears in the first year of life, while lactose intolerance occurs more often in adulthood. It affects around 2% to 3% of infants in developed countries)



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User Comments

10 November, 2010 | Emma Louise | Reply

Emma Louise How much milk and milk products like cheese, yogurt, cream etc can be consumed by a women with normal weight and no medical conditions. I do not like to consume milk but will not mind only in my cereals. So if I consume one cup of milk in my cereals then how much of milk products can I have in a day.

11 November, 2010 | Poonam | Reply

Poonam Hello Emma,
You can consume 2-3 servings of milk/milk products everyday. A serving consists of 8 oz milk or 2/3 cup of low fat yogurt. 1 oz of cheese or 1/4 cup of cottage cheese can also be eaten instead. Cream is a concentrated source of saturated fat and should be used only occasionally or if necessary.

09 November, 2010 | Aditi | Reply

Aditi I say buttermilk/yoghurt is the way to go!!! I'm infamous in my family even today, for all the trauma I (as a child) put mom through to drink milk. I wish my first words had been " lactose intolerance" and perhaps I would've been absolved! Never mind that mine is a very specific milk-taste-and-smell intolerance!!! Also, a red flag would be behavioural avoidances like spilling milk very often, pouring it down the drain or outside a balcony (ahem, case in point: yours truly!), tantrums at milk-times, etc. I overcame my dislike with addition of a few drops of coffee to milk - in retrospect, that coffee should ideally have been decaf. If only it were available 25 yrs ago!

08 November, 2010 | Kanika Jain | Reply

Kanika Jain Dear Rishabh,
Milk and its products are often added to processed foods.According to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), following food products may contain lactose(in varying amounts)-

-bread and other baked goods
-waffles, pancakes, biscuits, cookies, and mixes to make them
-processed breakfast foods such as doughnuts, frozen waffles and pancakes, toaster pastries, and sweet rolls
-processed breakfast cereals
-instant potatoes, soups, and breakfast drinks
-potato chips, corn chips, and other processed snacks
-processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and lunch meats
-salad dressings
-liquid and powdered milk-based meal replacements
-protein powders and bars
-non-dairy liquid and powdered coffee creamers
-non-dairy whipped toppings

08 November, 2010 | Rishabh Gaba | Reply

Rishabh Gaba Are there any other products which may contain lactose?

08 November, 2010 | Shakthi Nene | Reply

Shakthi Nene My son who is 13 yrs old has stopped drinking milk regularly. He says that he feels a sort of discomfort if he drinks milk. Is this lactose intolerance or he just giving an excuse not to drink milk? He is underweight, catches cold and has chest congestion with slight wheezing more often. Please advise.

09 November, 2010 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Dear Shakti
In our family many of my nephews and nieces used to cry off milk and would complain of feeling nauseous. Sometimes they even threw up. We substituted milk with thick buttermilk from freshly made curd and gave it as many times as required (equal to the amount of milk). The children grew up strong and healthy.
Many well wishers cautioned us about the children catching a cold or developing sinusitis, but in fact the reverse happened and the children built a good immunity as curd acts as a probiotic.

If your son is complaining I am sure there is some discomfort, try adding some flavouring agent to the milk or substitute with curd and see if it agrees with him. Some paediatricians recommend soy milk, so check with your son’s paediatrian for what is best for him as he does need Calcium for growth.
All the best.

09 November, 2010 | Sangeetha Narayana Swamy | Reply

Sangeetha Narayana Swamy Dear Shakthi,

If your son has had a episode of diarrhea, then he can show symptoms of temporary lactose intolerance but if he has not been drinking milk for some time then may be he dislikes the smell and taste of milk. You can try giving him flavoured milk, milkshakes, fruit yogurt, buttermilk, lassi etc that are good substitutes for milk in terms of nutrition.

At his age he requires good amount of energy and calcium, so do not to omit milk and milk products completely just because he dislikes them. Be innovative and try spiced lassi, smoothies with berries and fruits etc.

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