While occasional stomachache after drinking a glass of milk might be ignored, feeling sick every time you take a dairy product or by-product may indicate a more serious issue. Lactose intolerance is a common condition affecting a majority of the population. Don’t miss it early symptoms.
What is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose is a form of sugar that milk contains. When you consume milk, the lactose sugars are converted in the small intestines by the lactase enzymes to form two simple sugars: galactose and glucose. This makes it easier for your body to absorb and digest lactose.
Everybody is born with the lactase enzymes, but as we age, our bodies may fail to produce enough lactase to break down lactose. This leads to lactose intolerance. Most of the symptoms of lactose intolerance start when you reach the adolescent stage.
For the most part, lactose intolerance is not dangerous and the consequences don’t last long. However, in rare cases, consuming foods containing lactose can lead to permanent damage to the microvilli (the fingerlike projections found in the wall of the small intestines). The microvilli’s main function is nutrient absorption and when they are damaged, you risk suffering from malnutrition. The following are signs and symptoms that may indicate you are lactose intolerant.
You Feel Nauseous Whenever You Eat Dairy
Lactose intolerance affects people differently. For some, lack of sufficient lactase makes them feel the need to vomit after eating dairy. Although this may be a rare case, if you feel nauseous 30 minutes to two hours after taking food that has lactose, that’s an indication of lactose intolerance.
Stomachache and Funny Sounds in the Stomach
Due to lactase deficiency, an attempt to break down lactose can lead to a lot of water being drawn to your intestines to aid the process. Since there’s a lot of gas in your gut already, the result is a painful stomach, rumbling or gurgling sound, and diarrhea. Sometimes, diarrhea may appear to be foamy due to the excessive gas and fluids moving around in the stomach.
Bloating and Gas
You know you are lactose intolerant when an hour after enjoying a glass of yogurt, your stomach starts to feel bloated. Lack of proper sugar milk digestion is one of the causes of bloating which is usually an uncomfortable feeling. When your body fails to break down lactose, bacteria in the intestinal tract steps in and tries to break lactose molecules through the fermentation process. This increases the production of gas in your stomach, which makes the situation unbearable.
You Only Feel Sick After Consuming Dairy
Bloating, cramps and diarrhea can also be caused by other underlying conditions such as Crohn’s disease or food poisoning. To rule out other possibilities, you can test your body’s ability to process lactose by avoiding eating dairy for a while. If you still experience these symptoms without eating dairy, then you might be facing other digestion-related problems. It might also be helpful to record trigger patterns every time you eat dairy. Examine the symptoms closely to determine the causes of pain or diarrhea.
Genes could also be the reason for developing lactose intolerance. People of Asian, African, Jewish and Hispanic origin experience lactose intolerance more than other ethnic groups. The incidences are less in people of northern and western Europe origins, where the ability to digest lactose begun.
No one is born without the lactase enzymes in the body. However, some children may develop lactose intolerance at an early age of two years. As you age, your body may experience difficulties digesting dairy foods and dairy by-products. By age 20, lactose intolerance becomes full blown in almost 30 million adults in the U.S. Any symptoms you develop should be checked out to establish an easier way to manage lactose intolerance.
Side Effect of Cancer Treatment
According to Mayo Clinic, exposure to radiation in the abdomen or intestinal complications caused by chemotherapy increases your chances of lactose intolerance. This means that cancer treatment can destroy the lactase enzymes in your small intestines, leading to the condition. Therefore, if you notice suspicious symptoms after taking dairy, pay your doctor a visit for a full examination.
Managing Lactose Intolerance
Currently, lactose intolerance doesn’t have a cure. However, you can manage it by limiting your dairy intake and eating dairy-free alternatives. The best option is to switch to natural lactose-free products including broccoli, almond milk, soy milk, almonds, bok choy and tofu among other foods. You could also take lactase enzyme supplements to help your body digest lactose when you eat dairy foods. Since you’ll not be taking milk a lot, you risk losing out on key nutrients such as calcium, which is essential for strong bone growth and formation. To counter this effect, look for alternative foods that have plenty of calcium and other important nutrients required by your body. Also, remember not all foods are high in lactose and making the right choice means you can still enjoy eating dairy in moderation.
All images via Pixabay