Lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem where the body is unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products. The body digests lactose by using an enzyme called lactase to break down lactose into two simpler sugars called glucose and galactose, which can then be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Enzymes are proteins that cause chemical reactions to occur.
In cases of lactose intolerance, the body does not produce enough of the lactase enzyme so lactose stays in the digestive system, where it is fermented by bacteria (in the same way that yeast is fermented to produce beer). It’s this fermentation process that causes the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance. Levels of lactase often fall as people grow older and some health conditions can also reduce the production of lactase.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance include
a bloated stomach
Treating lactose intolerance
Limiting intake of food and drink containing lactose is the main treatment for lactose intolerance.
Depending on a person’s levels of intolerance, they may also require additional calcium and vitamin D supplements to keep the bones strong and healthy.
Advice from a dietitian may sometimes be helpful in determining the best diet for a person.
Lactase substitutes are also available. These are drops that you can add to your meals or drinks to improve your digestion of lactose.