Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem characterised by the inability of the body to digest lactose; a type of sugar most commonly found in milk products, though occasionally also in other products that dairy may be added to, including sweets, salad dressings, and baked goods. Lactose intolerance is typically caused by a deficiency of lactase, an enzyme produced in the small intestine to break it down.
The main symptom of lactose intolerance is stomach upsets that may cause bloating, flatulence, and diarrhoea; the severity and onset of which will depend of how much lactose is consumed, and can also vary from person to person, as can the amount of lactose required to trigger them . The amount of lactose contained in food can vary greatly; for example, fermented dairy products, such as hard cheeses, contain less than milk or cream.
As a rule, there are no long-term complications from lactose intolerance, however it is wise to try and limit the amount of lactose you consume; be sure to read product information carefully so you know what you’re getting. Additionally, if you have a lactose intolerance then you may not be receiving the nutritional benefits of dairy, such as calcium, you should look into other sources or supplements.
Similar symptoms associated with lactose intolerance can also occur with other conditions however, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), milk allergies, and milk protein intolerance (MPI), so if you are concerned that you or your child might be lactose intolerant, be sure to visit your G.P. to make sure.
- NHS Choices: Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
- NHS Choices: Causes of Lactose Intolerance
- NHS Choices: Diagnosing Lactose Intolerance
- NHS Choices: Treating Lactose Intolerance
- NHS Choices: Complications of Lactose Intolerance
- Reflux Infant Support Association: Cows Milk Protein vs Lactose Intolerance
- Wikipedia: Lactose (Rev. 2013/11/19)
- Bupa UK: Lactose Intolerance FAQ