What does lactose intolerance mean?

The human body is an incredibly complex mechanism. And, unfortunately, it does not always work like a clock, as a result of which various problems may arise. One of them is lactose intolerance. And what is it, how does it manifest itself?

What is it?

Lactose is a milk carbohydrate called milk sugar. In other words, it is a sugar molecule consisting of two other components: galactose and glucose. It is formed in the mammary glands of all mammals and is found exclusively in milk.

What is lactose for? It is incredibly useful, as it facilitates absorption in the intestine of a variety of mineral substances contained in food, for example, calcium. In addition, it is necessary for the reproduction of beneficial lactic acid bacteria, which are necessary for the normal functioning of the immune system. But for lactose to fulfill all its functions, it must be properly and fully absorbed, and this is possible, unfortunately, not always.

The essence of intolerance

What is lactose intolerance? To understand this, it is necessary to understand a little the essence of the processes occurring in the intestine. In general, lactose should be broken down in its walls into galactose and glucose, which it consists of. And it becomes possible thanks to a special enzyme produced by the body - lactase. If it is not enough, or it is not synthesized at all, then lactose cannot be absorbed, and its intolerance occurs.

There are two main types of lactose intolerance: primary and secondary. The first arises as an independent state and can be congenital. Secondary intolerance is due to the influence of negative factors and can develop at almost any age.


The main causes of lactose intolerance:

  • Genetic predisposition. A certain gene is responsible for the production of the lactase enzyme responsible for the breakdown of lactose. And as a result of some genetic mutations lactase deficiency may occur, which will lead to lactose intolerance. In general, the amount of enzyme will inevitably decrease with age (up to about 12-13 years old), and this is normal.In adults, this substance is produced in minimal amounts, but still sufficient to fully digest milk (provided it is properly consumed). But for some, the ability to synthesize lactase disappears almost completely.
  • Severe allergies, especially to cow's milk protein.
  • Transferred acute intestinal infections, especially with their improper treatment. Such diseases can lead to severe irritation and even partial destruction of the membranes of the intestinal walls, in which lactase is produced.
  • Celiac disease This is a disease in which certain types of food proteins, such as gluten, found in many cereals are not tolerated. Such proteins also damage the villi of the small intestine, as a result of which lactase can not be produced in sufficient quantities.


The manifestations of lactose intolerance may be different. And even for one person, the signs can manifest themselves in different ways, since they depend on the amount of milk sugar that has entered the body, on the specific products used that contain it, on dietary habits and on some other factors.

Usually, the first manifestations begin to bother the patient about an hour or two after consuming milk and other products containing lactose, that is, when milk sugar reaches the intestine.

In a child (especially an infant), signs can be observed literally in a few minutes after eating, which is associated with the age characteristics of the digestive process and the failure of the gastrointestinal tract.

The main symptoms of lactose intolerance:

  • Increased gas formation, flatulence.
  • Abdominal pains that are cramping in nature.
  • Diarrhea (diarrhea).
  • Boiling, rumbling in the stomach.
  • Vomiting. It occurs less frequently, but it can still appear from time to time, especially when consuming large quantities of products containing lactose.
  • Some have constipation.
  • Bloating.
  • In infants, almost immediately after feeding, moodiness and anxiety may appear. Many babies start crying, straining. Also characteristic signs are abundant and frequent regurgitation, rumbling in the abdomen, colic.
  • Since lactose is necessary for the reproduction of beneficial bacteria responsible for the functioning of the immune system,then secondary symptoms of intolerance can be frequent colds, general weakness, loss of strength, drowsiness.


Often lactose intolerance (lactase deficiency) is confused with an allergy to cow's milk protein or even to other proteins. And in order to make an accurate diagnosis, the doctor may advise you to follow a certain diet and keep a food diary, in which the food consumed, its quantity, as well as the symptoms that occur after meals and the time they occur, will be noted.

There are also more accurate specialized medical methods of diagnostics. The patient is asked to consume 50 milliliters of lactose. After that, some measurements are taken. Thus, the level of hydrogen in the air exhaled by man and the sugar content in the blood are determined.

The fact is that if lactase is not enough, then lactose does not break down in the small intestine, as it should be normal, and enters the fat, where it begins to be processed by bacteria. In the course of such processing, hydrogen is formed, which enters the blood and exits from the lungs. But glucose in this case is formed in minimal quantities.

How to treat?

The primary intolerance of lactose can not be cured completely, but it is possible to fully live with it. And here the secondary intolerance can pass independently after elimination of negative factors of influence or their consequences.

The first and most important stage of treatment is proper nutrition. The diet should be made by a doctor and taking into account the characteristics of the patient's body. For example, some may properly assimilate small amounts of milk, others painlessly use dairy products, as they are transformed into milk sugar by bacteria into lactic acid.

In addition, in the course of research it was found that even people suffering from lactose intolerance can assimilate sweet dairy products. And this is due to the fact that lactose is broken down not only by lactase, but also by another enzyme - alpha-glucosidase.

So what can not eat with the disease? This should be determined by the attending physician after examination and prolonged follow-up. But if the refusal is inevitable and obligatory, the specialist is also obliged to prescribe the administration of a complex vitamin preparation in order to avoid beriberi.

It is worth noting that today there are products with low lactose content or even complete absence of lactose (in them milk sugar is already split into galactose and glucose).

There are some drugs on the basis of lactase, which allow you to use dairy and fermented milk products without any restrictions. This allows you to feel normal and at the same time get all the necessary and useful components of food.

In addition, therapy may include the administration of probiotics, which have pronounced enzymatic and antagonistic properties, but do not have lactose in their composition. They allow to normalize the intestinal microflora and improve its work.

If the product with lactose was consumed, then symptomatic treatment will allow to eliminate discomfort. Doctors recommend drugs that eliminate spasm of the intestinal walls, as well as reduce the amount of gases. These include Espumizan, Smecta.

Let lactose intolerance does not prevent you from living! To do this, follow all the requirements of your doctor.

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