Millions of people world-wide awake each morning and have cereal with milk prior to starting their day or enjoy milk with tea, coffee and like having a cold ice cream cone on a hot, sunny day. The reality for millions of others is that milk is the last thing that they could even consider having with a meal or in a beverage owing to a condition known as the state of being ‘lactose inteolerant.’ The figures for those who are afflicted with this condition are staggering. It is estimated that about fifty million Americans alone live with this condition and the rates within Africa, Asia and South America approach nearly one-hundred percent.
Briefly defined, the state of being lactose intolerant is body’s inability to process and convert lactose into the metabolic system within the digestive system. This is the primary result of the low levels of lactase, an enzyme that is used to process the lactose, (or sugars ) found in milk. The symptoms from this condition range from flatulence, to bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, acid reflux and nausea.
Lactose intolerance is separated into three separate classifications. They are primary lactose intolerance, secondary lactose intolerance and finally, congenital lactase deficiency.
Primary lactose intolerance is a form that is common to African and Asian societies and it is a result of an environment to which dairy products are not widely available.
Secondary lactose intolerance is usually the result of intestinal parasites that contribute toward a kind of gastrointestinal disease. In cases such as these, the body’s ability to produce the enzyme lactase can be inhibited if not stopped permanently. A temporary form of lactose intolerance is found in instances of infants who have been given too much lactose, or in the condition known as gastroenteritis. In the latter situation, it is quite a common albeit, temporary occurrence that develops as a result of a fecal to oral ingestion. As it is also seen in severe diarrhea and stomach flu, it is common to children and the positive outcome to this is an immunity build up against future infections.
Finally, congenital lactase deficiency is the body’s failure to produce the enzyme known as lactase as a result of genetic disposition. Typically it begins at birth and is diagnosed in the early stages of infancy. The process of determining the possibility of lactose intolerance is performed through consuming more diary products than can be digested at once. The symptoms as set out in clinical criteria will typically begin to show within a half hour to two hour range in consideration of the presence of other activities and foods. Always be aware that rather than a lactose intolerance, the reaction to milk and dairy products may be the result of an allergy to milk and dairy. Presented with a milk that is lactose free, the lactose intolerant person will display no symptoms but to the person with a milk allergy, symptoms consistent with a reaction will be present. Consult your doctor or immunology/allergist specialist if you suspect that you have either condition.