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Lactose intolerance, what it is and what the symptoms are

Lactose intolerance

Many adults suffer from lactose intolerance, which prevents them from consuming milk and dairy products: let’s find out more about this condition.

Lactose intolerance derives from the inability, very common in adults, to digest lactose, a sugar contained in milk . This substance then remains to ferment in the intestine, where it produces annoying symptoms. What happens to our body when we develop lactose intolerance? What are the symptoms and treatments available to solve this problem? Here is everything there is to know about this intolerance.

What is lactose intolerance

The human body produces an enzyme called lactase , which is responsible for breaking down and digesting lactose. This enzyme commonly decreases over time, and is no longer produced in some adults. In this case, the intake of milk and dairy products causes some disturbances due to the body’s inability to digest lactose.

In most cases, intolerance is caused precisely by this progressive reduction in the production of the enzyme lactase. The congenital form , which manifests itself from birth, is very rare – affected infants must be fed specially formulated lactose-free milk. There is also a secondary intolerance, triggered by some infections ( rotavirus or giardia, for example), which tends to regress after a few months from the resolution of the problem.

Lactose intolerance
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Symptoms of lactose intolerance

When the body cannot digest the lactose from milk and dairy products, some annoying symptoms develop. Their severity also varies according to each person’s tolerance threshold – some feel just a little discomfort, others have quite serious problems.

Symptoms usually include abdominal bloating , fullness, flatulence and bloating, diarrhea , nausea. Dermatitis is not one of the signs of lactose intolerance, but of allergy to cow’s milk proteins . Although in terms of manifestation the two conditions are similar, the allergy appears already in the first months of the newborn’s life.

How to cure lactose intolerance

Once lactose intolerance has been diagnosed using the hydrogen breath test , the only way to avoid its symptoms is to reduce or completely eliminate products containing this sugar from the diet. Some people are in fact able to digest a limited amount of lactose , so they will just have to be careful not to exceed this threshold.

In severe cases, it is important to learn to recognize products in which traces of lactose are found. Not an easy feat, since they are also found in fruit and vegetables (pears, onions, broccoli), packaged foods and some types of meat. Also beware of drugs : many contain small amounts of lactose.

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