Be a Superstar with Lactose Intolerance

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Do you know Victoria Beckham, Jessica Alba, Halle Barry and even Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom are all Lactose Intolerant ? Famous american actress Halle Barry won the 74 th Annual Academy Awards. I hope, she did not win the award in 'Best Lactose Intolerant category' ; she won it for her incredible acting in the movie 'Monster's Ball'.

All I want to say there are many people around us who are suffering from Lactose Intolerance and still trying to make an effort to do something good for us. So why don't we give a try?

Now, let us discuss our topic.

What is Lactose Intolerance ?

Lactose intolerance is also known as lactase deficiency.

Here we are not able to fully digest the milk (lactose) in our dairy products.

Lactose intolerance is caused by low levels of the enzyme 'lactase' in our small intestine. In normal condition, the cells that line our small intestine produce an enzyme called 'lactase'. The 'lactase' enzyme attaches to lactose molecules of our diet and breaks them into glucose and galactose. Both of them are absorbed into our body. Without enough of this 'lactase' enzyme, most of the lactose in our diet moves into the colon (without being broken into glucose and galactose). em>

In the colon, our intestinal bacteria interact with it. This causes bloating, gas and diarrhea. Hey, these are really troublesome sometimes. Especially when you are in a job, at a meeting or even in public places. Isn't it?
Lactose Intolerance and the Evolution of Human Digestion

Another important point to note.

Lactose Intolerance can present at different ages in different ways. So, it's important to know a little about different types of lactose intolerance and their presentation.

Here they are:

Primary Lactose Intolerance:

Normally, our body produces large amounts of 'lactase' at birth and during early childhood. But gradually, our 'lactase' production decreases when our diet habit changes and becomes less reliant on milk. This may lead to Primary Lactose Intolerance.

Secondary Lactose Intolerance:

Whenever our small intestine decreases 'lactase' production after an surgery, illness or injury this type of Lactose Intolerance develops. This may even occur as a result of many different intestinal diseases, such as celiac disease, tropical sprue, gastroenteritis and inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn's disease. This disorder may take time to resolve.

Congenital lactose intolerance:

This disorder is relatively rare. In this condition babies are born with complete absence of 'lactase' enzyme. This disorder is may pass from generation to generation. Infants with congenital lactose intolerance are intolerant of the lactose in their mothers' breast milk and have diarrhea from birth. Sometimes, premature infants may also have insufficient 'lactase' level.

Those who love dairy products and are Lactose Intolerant, I am sorry to announce the name of your favourite foods. I know, I know, they are so yummy. Especially, ice cream (I love it!) . Foods that commonly contain lactose are:

a. Milk
b. Ice Cream
c. Cheese
d. Cream
e. Cream Cheese
f. Sour Cream
g. Chocolate
h. Butter

Well, You may be thinking....I know foods that contain lactose .... But ..How do you know you are Lactose Intolerant ?

Well I am coming to the point. If you are Lactose Intolerant, usually you should start feeling following symptoms within 30 minutes to two hours after taking foods that contain lactose. Good news here they are mild ...

Most common sign and symptoms Lactose Intolerance are:

Nausea, and sometimes, vomiting
Abdominal cramps
Loose motion or Diarrhoea

Moreover, there are certain conditions (also known as risk factors) that make us prone to develop this condition. Remember, having these conditions doesn't mean that you have lactose intolerance. You are just at risk.

They are:
Increasing Age :
Lactose intolerance becomes more common as we age.
Ethnicity :
Lactose intolerance is most common in Asian, Hispanic, black and American Indian people.
Premature baby: Infants born prematurely may have reduced levels of 'lactase'. This enzyme production is increased in the fetus late in the third trimester.
Small intestinal disorder : Small intestine problems that can cause lactose intolerance are bacterial overgrowth, celiac disease and Crohn's disease (inflammatory bowel disease) .
Cancer treatments:
Those patients who received radiation therapy for certain cancer in their abdomen or have intestinal complications from chemotherapy (cancer drug therapy), may have an increased risk of lactose intolerance.

There is another disorder related to Lactose Intolerance known as Milk Allergy. This is an allergic reaction to one or more of the proteins in milk like casein, lactalbumin, lactoglobulins. The allergic manifestations to milk include: eczema, rash, mucous buildup, wheezing, respiratory discomfort, rhinitis, and anaphylaxis . The type and severity of symptoms varies widely.

It is possible for us to be both lactose intolerant and allergic to milk.

I think I have said enough. I do not write this blog to apply my medical knowledge and feel proud of myself. I want you to keep this small information in your mind. Someday you might find people close to your heart suffering from this disorder (Lactose Intolerance) and help him/her when no body can. If you can do so, you save life. I think, saving life is the most beautiful thing that could happen to you. Remember, path to your success, joy and effort start and end with yourself.

For further reading on Lactose Intolerance:

Lactose Intolerance References:

Kumar and Clark: Clinical Medicine,6th edition: 2005; Elsevier Saunders

Suggested Reading

Suggested Watching

Lactose Intolerance Vs IBS

Lactose Intolerance: An Overview

About the Author

Dr Rezahaider's picture
Author: Dr Rezahaider

I am a physician by profession. I dream to work on medicine in the near future. I have completed my residency three years back. Now, I am planning to obtain MRCP. This is very hard exam and surely, I am always scared of it. I have also decided to do my specialization on cardiology. Before medical school, I never thought that our heart could be so complex! So pray for me. I usually don't have enough time to write due to my studies. But whenever I get time I love to write. I write on medical related issues. I try to make it simple for you.


Suhail Karumbil's picture

very informatic . Thank you..


Dr Rezahaider's picture

Hello Suhail, Thanks for your interest. If you have any question regarding my article, please feel free to contact me. Till then, take care. Regards, Dr. Reza


A.R.Khan's picture

Could you please throw some light on difference between Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergy . I understand Lactose Intolerance is a medical condition due to lack of/ deficiency in lactase enzyme. Patient has to deal with it...How about Milk allergy ? it is just temporary condition ..I will appreciate your input.
Dr Rezahaider's picture

Dear Khan, Thank you so much for your interest. It's very important to know the difference between milk allergy and lactose intolerance. These are two different disorders (i know we often love to mix them up) with two different pathophysiology. I hope lactose intolerance is covered in my writings. I am going to say something about milk allergy. When we discuss milk allergy and lactose intolerance, we are referring to cow's milk. There are other types of milk available like goat's milk, soy milk, etc. These are not comparable. For example, soy milk does not result in lactose intolerance. Milk contains over 30 different types of proteins. Of them, 'casein' and 'whey' group of proteins are the most important for milk allergy. Our body is an enigma. Whenever any foreign substance tries to enter into our body, our immune system is stimulated. Immune system is like an army of our body. They combat against any foreign substance like virus, bacteria, different proteins etc. But what happens when our immune system can't differentiate between good and bad proteins? That's exactly what happens in milk allergy. Milk allergy is an abnormal response by our body's immune system to milk and products containing milk. Please note that this is only the response of our immune system. Enzyme deficiency (like lactose intolerance!) is not related to this disorder. Cow's milk is the usual cause of milk allergy, but milk from sheep, goats and buffalo can also cause same reaction. There are two main proteins in cow's milk that can cause an allergic reaction: Casein, which is found in the solid part (curd) of milk. Whey, which is found in the liquid part of milk. Let's see what happens when we drink milk in case of milk allergy. Usually, milk allergy occurs minutes to hours after consuming milk. Signs and symptoms of milk allergy range from mild to severe and can include wheezing, vomiting, hives and digestive problems like abdominal pain, bloating etc. Rarely, milk allergy can even cause anaphylaxis which is a severe, life-threatening reaction. What to do for milk allergy? Well, we just have to avoid milk . Fortunately, most children outgrow a milk allergy by age 3! I hope you have understood the basic difference. Please feel free to write to me about this disorder; in fact, any disorder anytime you want. Thanks for your support. Have a nice day. Dr. Reza


Mumita Meshkat's picture

Is there any solution or management for hypolactasia or lactose intolerance? Though I know the lactose intolerance has no cure. Is there any cure for lactose partial intolerance? How to determine the lactose intolerance condition? As, I occasionally feel abdominal cramps, abdominal pain, upset stomach and loose motion after consuming dairy product, specially after intake of concentrated or moderate to high amount of milk. This condition recovers its self without medication. But I just want to know that is there any preventive measure for such condition without avoiding milk? Thank you.
Dr Rezahaider's picture

Dear Mumita Meshkat, You are right. There is no treatment to improve the body's ability to produce lactase. Worried? Relax. There are many ways to control your symptoms. Recent updates suggest that dairy foods should be tried to see which ones can be tolerated better than others. Definitely, you can take moderate amount of dairy products. Please try to adjust the amount of lactose you can tolerate. If you need any help regarding that, let me know. If you are too much concerned, you can try lactose free foods like: soya milks, yoghurts and some cheeses, milks made from rice, oats, almonds, coconut,potato and all foods which carry the "dairy-free" signs. A lactase substitute is also available in the market. It comes in liquid form (usually as drops) or pills that can be taken before a meal or added to milk. Regarding determining lactose intolerance, I will definitely explain this in my coming blog on 22 August. Please stay with me. Warm regards, Dr. Reza


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