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Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance refers to a digestive condition in which the body cannot digest lactose sugar present in food products. Lactose is a disaccharide (large sugar molecule). It is made up of two important sugars glucose and galactose respectively. The absorption of these sugars takes place in the small intestine through finger-like projections called villi. The villi produce enzymes such as lactase to convert lactose obtained from milk and other dairy products to glucose and galactose.

Lactase enzyme deficiency can trigger the onset of lactose intolerance. This disorder which is closely associated with lactose intolerance may be because of congenital or acquired reasons. Congenital abnormalities of lactase deficiency are because of mutations in the gene coding for lactase. Secondary causes many be due to underlying conditions such as Crohn’s disease and celiac sprue. Infants, particularly premature babies are more prone to lactase deficiency as the levels of lactase increase only in the third trimester of pregnancy.


Lactose is sugar which can cause severe bowel disturbances if undigested because of its osmotic laxative nature. This initiates the onset of abdominal pain, foul smelling gas and sometimes diarrhea. Flatulence and bloating occurs when bacteria present in the intestine utilize the lactose sugar as their substrate. This phenomenon is directly associated with the amount of lactose intake in a day. The exact reason for the occurrence of lactose intolerance is very difficult to identify because many pre-existing causes can induce similar symptoms. Patients suffering lactose intolerance experience bloating, gas and discomfort for period of 30 minutes to 2 hours. These symptoms may increase in severity to diarrhea and vomiting causing loss of electrolyte.

Diagnosis and management of Lactose intolerance

Hydrogen test: This test is done to evaluate the hydrogen levels in the exhaled breath of person. Low levels of hydrogen are detected in normal conditions. In lactose intolerance, the levels of hydrogen are high and other factors such as smoking and alcohol can interfere with absolute diagnostic parameters.

Stool examination: Stool examination is done to detect the amount of sugars present as it indicates the presence of undigested lactose and glucose present in the gut. This test is very useful to identify the digestive functionality in children. Lactose intolerance treatment and management is associated with dietary habits. Patients are advised to minimize diary product consumption. The calcium requirement of the body can be supplemented through other food products such as sardines, tuna, oranges, broccoli, lettuce and fortified calcium supplements. In some cases lactase enzyme is added in the food for digestion.


Probiotics can be classified as a set of functional food which has live bacteria that are beneficial and not harmful to the human beings. The first ever probiotic food introduced was adding acidophilus to the milk, this helped people develop better tolerance towards milk and also helped people who found it difficult to digest milk. Majority of the probiotic food available in the market is fermented partially. Food items that contain probiotic bacteria are mainly dairy products such as probiotic added fluid milk and yogurt. Two main bacteria that are probiotic are lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. These are a component of the lactic acid bacteria and are present in fermented dairy products. Probiotics have multiple advantages as listed below:

  • Probiotics help keep up the balance between harmful and beneficial bacteria in the gut thus maintaining a healthy digestive system.
  • Helps to remove gas and decomposes waste.
  • Consumption of probiotics is very useful and beneficial for people who have taken antibiotics for a long time.
  • Traveling abroad means facing travel induced diarrhea, probiotics help the body tackle this condition with ease.
  • Probiotics help in stimulating the immune system thereby reducing infections.
  • Useful in the treatment of diarrhea and infections in the GI tract.
  • Improves digestion of lactose and deals with lactose intolerance. Also improves overall digestion and in particular is good for improving digestion of fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
  • Helps prevention of colon cancer and prevents growth of substances that cause cancer.
  • Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure in the human body.
  • Helps improve mineral and nutrient absorption and reduces inflammation.
  • Controls growth of harmful bacteria under stressful conditions.
  • Plays a role in balancing sex hormones thus improving fertility.
  • Infections such as athlete’s foot, candidiasis etc that is caused by yeast is kept at bay.
  • Controls growth of pathogenic bacteria and virus.
  • Crushes toxins and produces antibodies and anti carcinogens.

Esophageal reflux

Acid Reflux Disease or Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) afflicts millions worldwide and dietary restrictions can form the first line of treatment and in most mild cases a change in diet can bring significant relief. Certain food items can precipitate or aggravate Acid Reflex disease - like for instance - Whole Milk can trigger GERD for people who have lactose intolerance which affects most people of almost all ethnic origins except Caucasians.

You might feel an upper abdominal pain or discomfort on consumption of a heavy meal or when bending to lift an object. Acid reflux symptoms tend to make an appearance at night, when you are lying on your back. This may result in nausea after eating or stomach bloating and burping. Women tend to suffer more from acid reflux symptoms during pregnancy due to the pressure from the growing fetus and the increased hormone levels.

Tackling GERD - Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease

  • Eat frequent small meals during the day. Avoid big meals.
  • Include complex carbohydrates in each meal.
  • Limit the consumption of alcohol, chocolate and caffeinated drink.
  • Do not lie down on a full stomach. Instead sit in an upright position for about 45 minutes after each meal.
  • Stay clear of high-fat meals as they will trigger an acid attack on the stomach.
  • Smoking can weaken the lower esophageal muscles. Tobacco aggravates the condition of Acid Reflux disease.
  • Maintain healthy body weight. Shed excess weight to curb acid reflux symptoms.
  • Chewing gum or sucking on candy can cause swallowing of air, thereby worsening acid reflux and belching.
  • Avoid tight clothing, especially around the abdomen.
  • Do not drink water during mealtimes but instead drink a glass or two of water about half an hour before a meal.

Persons suffering from acid reflux disease would do well to maintain a diary of foods consumed daily. This can help identify any potential triggers so that you can eliminate them from your diet.

Tags: #Lactose intolerance #Probiotics #Esophageal reflux
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: July 21, 2024