Check whether your child is lactose intolerant

Your child complains about some discomfort of his/her digestive system? Some stomach problems after drinking milk or other dairy products can suggest the lactose intolerance.

In general, we all need an enzyme – lactase – to digest lactose. Lactose is a sugar present in milk (also breast milk), dairy products and all products  containing milk like bread, sweets, dressings etc. There may occur some problems with digesting lactose or we may be allergic to milk.

Being lactose intolerant and allergic to milk are two different situations, yet often confused since the symptoms can be very similar. In the article, we focus on the lactose intolerance which appears when your small intestine does not produce enough lactase.

What are the symptoms of the lactose intolerance?

The symptoms are dependent on the lactose intake – the higher is the degree of lactose consumption, the more symptoms (and more intensive) are likely to occur. The ineffective work or the lack of lactase precludes the proper lactose digestion which results in fermentation of the sugar in the large intestine. In consequence, carbon dioxide and hydrogen are produced, and these are known for causing laxative effect.

The problem can start developing in the late childhood or adolescence and become the most troublesome in the adulthood. However, apart from being the reason of some discomfort, it does not lead to any long term health dangers.

The main and most common symptoms caused by problems with lactose digestion are:

  • Loose stools and gases
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain; bloating; cramping
  • Skin rash
  • Recurring colds

Types of the lactose intolerance

Primary lactase deficiency – in this case babies lack the lactase enzyme from birth, which results in diarrhea caused by the breast milk consumption. Special feeding is necessary in such circumstances. It is rather a rare condition, though.

Celiac disease – in the case of this disorder gluten damages the small intestine. The problem with lactose tolerance can be the consequence of this intestine damage. However, sticking to a strict gluten-free diet helps intestinal lining recover and remove the problem with lactose digestion.

Acquired intolerance – in the course of time the activity of the lactase in our small intestine decreases. Almost 50 percent of the U.S. adults show some symptoms of the lactose intolerance.

Secondary intolerance – the temporary condition caused by irritation of the digestive system (“acute gastroenteritis”), which is often a consequence of rotavirus or giardiasis infection.

How can you check whether you are lactose intolerant?

So as to check if you digest lactose properly use the lactose breath test . When you are lactose intolerant, the level of hydrogen in your breath rises after any lactose consumption.

Treatment

The only thing we can do in this case is to alleviate or get rid of the problematic symptoms. The disorder cannot be cured. Certain modification of a diet or some lactase enzyme supplements can come with help.

Each person’s lactose intolerance should be treated individually, because everyone can react differently to the same product. You must learn what your child should avoid and what amount of certain products is “safe”. And remember: while you cut down on dairy, provide calcium and vitamin D from other sources.