Bloating and increased gas may indicate that you are lactose intolerant. Discover its symptoms and the basic medicines for its treatment.
Lactose intolerance is a digestive disease that develops when the body is unable to digest lactose, the main sugar in dairy products. It is characterized by causing digestive discomfort, including bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Is your lactose intolerant?
People with this disorder do not produce enough lactase, that is, the enzyme that is responsible for breaking down lactose into glucose and galactose. This deficit allows lactose to move through the intestine without being digested, which triggers a series of symptoms.
Currently, up to 75% of the population has low lactase production. Therefore, cases of intolerance have increased considerably. Therefore, to avoid complications, it is important to know how it manifests and what to do to control it.
Symptoms that tell you that you are lactose intolerant
It may take a long time before digestive discomfort is linked to lactose intolerance. This is because the symptoms are similar to those of many other diseases. However, discomfort often appears 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating dairy.
Swelling and abdominal pain
One of the first symptoms you notice when you are lactose intolerant is abdominal pain. This discomfort, which is usually accompanied by inflammation, is derived from the increase in gases and acids that are produced by the inability to break down lactose.
When the body does not produce enough lactase, the lactose passes through the intestine until it reaches the colon. There it cannot be absorbed by cells, but is fermented and broken down by the bacterial microflora. This process triggers cramps and bloating, usually located around the navel or in the lower half of the stomach.
Lactose intolerance causes diarrhea by increasing the volume of water in the colon. It is most common in infants and young children, but it also affects adults. The amount of water that the body releases into the colon increases due to the fermentation process of lactose.
However, for this symptom to occur, there must be about 45 grams of carbohydrates in the colon, which is equivalent to drinking between 3 and 4 cups of milk. Of course, not all the carbohydrates that cause this symptom come from lactose.
Similarly, having diarrhea does not always indicate that you are lactose intolerant. Other causes of this condition are: drug use, intestinal infections, inflammatory bowel diseases, food malabsorption, etc.
When lactose passes into the colon, it triggers a fermentation process that increases the production of hydrogen gases, methane and carbon dioxide. Although the amount of gas differs depending on the efficiency of the microbiota, in general, it increases flatulence.
Interestingly, the gases that are generated from lactose fermentation have no odor. In fact, odorous flatulence comes from the breakdown of proteins in the intestine.
Constipation is a disorder whose main symptom is infrequent and hard stools. It is accompanied by incomplete bowel movements and an upset stomach. Although it is a less common symptom than diarrhea, it can also indicate that you are lactose intolerant.
Apparently, the methane gas produced by the fermentation of undigested lactose is what triggers this symptom. This gas is believed to slow down the transit time of the intestine, causing difficulty in bowel movements. However, more evidence is needed to corroborate its relationship to lactose intolerance.
Other possible causes of constipation are:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Low fiber diet
- Drug consumption
- Parkinson’s disease
What should you do if you are lactose intolerant?
When your doctor confirms that you are lactose intolerant, they usually make significant modifications to your diet. In general, treatment consists of minimizing the consumption of dairy products that contain lactose. The most frequent are:
- Cow milk
- Goat milk
- Soft cheeses
- Ice cream and yogurt
There are low-lactose dairy products that can be tolerated if consumed in moderate amounts; These include: butter, kefir, Greek yogurt, and hard or aged cheeses. Similarly, there are many “lactose-free” dairy products available.