The human body is made up of numerous organs and components that work in harmonious synergy. These organs can be grouped into various categories that make up a system that handles particular tasks. These systems include the digestive system, the breathing system, or the circulatory system. These systems collaborate to ensure that the entire body functions effectively for the survival of human beings. The digestive system is one of the most significant and more complex systems of the body. It is responsible for the breakdown and absorption of food into the body; therefore, producing energy.
There are, however, several issues that might arise from the lack of specific components in the digestive systems that can cause conditions and allergic reactions when various foods are ingested. The research topic for this article articulates the issues of Lactose Intolerance. It primarily focuses on exploring what Lactose intolerance is, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, or remedies.
According to research, Lactose Intolerance is a medical condition whereby the body is unable to digest a significant amount of lactose. Lactose is a sugar primarily found in milk; therefore, milk consumption can lead to distressful results in the individuals affected. Lactose intolerance is not entirely deadly; however, it can cause a great deal of distress in the affected persons. There are numerous myths and misinformation about this condition that is currently available on the internet (Savaiano et al., 2017). As a result, people with is condition are often victims of misinformation; therefore, it is vital to conduct research extensively to come up with facts on lactose intolerance.
As mentioned, lactose intolerance is the inability of the body to breakdown or digest a large amount of lactose, which is a sugar that is predominantly found in milk and other dairy products. Cells in the small intestine produce the lactase enzyme that digests the lactose contained in milk into smaller forms that are absorbable into the blood. Insufficient lactase prevents or greatly hinders lactose from being broken down; therefore, it cannot be absorbed into the body, resulting in various symptoms (Corgneau et al., 2017). It is vital to note that a significant number of individuals with lactase deficiency do not portray symptoms; however, the ones that do are considered as lactose intolerant.
When the lactase enzyme is not sufficient enough to breakdown the lactose in the small intestine, it is passed through to the colon (large intestine) where the entire problem arises. The colon contains large amounts of bacteria in its walls, and the lactose encourages the growth of these bacteria colonies. The bacteria, present in the colon ferment the lactose passed on from the small intestine producing gas as a byproduct. The symptoms are apparent as a result of the fermentation that occurs in the colon (Montgomery et al., 2018).
Lactose intolerant persons experience an array of symptoms varying on the amount of food consumed; moreover, the quantity of lactose ingested or rather, the quantity and individual can tolerate. The reaction to excess lactose intake ordinarily occurs after thirty minutes two hours after consumption. The individual can experience nausea, gas, bloating, and diarrhea, or all the symptoms in extreme cases. In the long term, individuals who are lactose intolerant can experience malnutrition, dehydration as a result of diarrhea and weight loss if they continue to ingest foods containing excess lactose (Montgomery et al., 2018).
There are several types of conditions leading to lactose deficiency. For example, various injuries, digestive diseases, or surgery on the small intestine can lead to reduced production of the lactase enzyme resulting in the condition. In a rare occurrence, infants are born without the ability to produce the enzyme resulting in lactase deficiency (Montgomery et al., 2018).
The condition is also predominant in infants born prematurely as their lactose levels increase significantly only in the third trimester of pregnancy. The lack of lactase activity leads to the children being fed infant formula that is lactose-free as they cannot be breastfed. It is worth noting that such type of lactose intolerance is hereditary (Corgneau et al., 2017). For a majority of people, the condition develops over time naturally as the body starts producing less lactase after infancy. Normally, the body begins to release a few quantities of lactase as the diet begins to diversify, and the child becomes less reliant on milk.
One misconception about lactose intolerance is that it is milk allergy even though they are entirely different conditions. Milk allergy is more dangerous as the body's immune system reacts negatively with proteins in the milk. Allergy to milk commonly occurs during infancy and slowly fades away as the child grows older. Symptoms of this condition include abdominal pains and blood in the stool. The condition is so threatening that it can result in death as a result of milk consumption (Savaiano et al., 2017). Symptoms of lactose intolerances are, however less severe and can rarely result in death.
According to the American Medical Association, over three-fifths of the Americans are diagnosed with the condition by the age of 21. The condition affects people of different regions differently, whereby people from Africa and northern Europe have a higher tolerance for lactose, which enables them to continue to break it down to adulthood. The condition can be diagnosed by a regular doctor or a pediatrician using the hydrogen breath test. A patient is required to ingest foods or drinks rich in lactose such as milk. After fifteen minutes, they are required to fill up a balloon-like bag with air for two hours. Their breath is then tested for the presence of hydrogen. If the patient's breath has the presence of hydrogen suggest the presence of undigested lactose in the colon fermented by the bacteria.
People with lactose intolerance are required to avoid foods that have a high lactose percentage. These foods are primarily comprised of milk or other dairy products such as cheese and ghee. Fortunately, there are alternatives products to milk and dairy products; the most popular substitutes are soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk. Coconut milk is alternative milk as it is rich in calcium and is readily available. Currently, it is being marketed as an alternative for milk as it is economically friendly. Hemp milk is produced from the hemp nut. Although it is harder and more expensive to purchase in the local store, it is also an alternative for calcium that lactose-intolerant persons can ingest. Almond milk has seen an increase in popularity in recent years as a result of its nutritious value (Corgneau et al., 2017). It is also an effective alternative to milk.
There has also been a significant investment in foods for people who are lactose intolerant such as Lactaid. Lactaid is an array of dairy products for people with lactase deficiency. According to the United States Agriculture Research Service, Lactaid is among the top fifteen accomplishments of the last half-century. These products contain milk enriched with calcium as well as ghee, ice cream, and cheese. Although these products contain real dairy, they are laced with the Lactase enzyme which lactose-intolerant people lack (Corgneau et al., 2017). Needless to mention, these products are slightly more expensive than normal dairy products as a result of the added lactase enzyme; however, they are more convenient for people with lactase deficiency as they do not have to take enzyme supplements.
Lactose intolerance is the inability of the body to digest large amounts of lactose. Cells in the small intestine are responsible for the production of the lactase enzyme which breaks down the lactose contained in milk into smaller forms that are absorbable into the blood. Insufficient lactase prevents or greatly hinders lactose from being broken down. The lactose is passed into the colon, which contains large amounts of bacteria that ferment the lactose producing gas as a byproduct.
The symptoms may include nausea, gas, bloating, and diarrhea, or all the symptoms in extreme cases. In the long term, individuals can experience malnutrition, dehydration as a result of diarrhea and weight loss if they continue to ingest foods containing excess lactose. People with lactose intolerance are required to avoid foods that are comprised of milk or other dairy products such as cheese and ghee. Fortunately, there are alternatives products to milk and dairy products; the most popular substitutes are soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk.
Corgneau, M., Scher, J., Ritie-Pertusa, L., Le, D. T., Petit, J., Nikolova, Y., ... & Gaiani, C. (2017). Recent advances on lactose intolerance: Tolerance thresholds and currently available answers. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 57(15), 3344-3356.
Montgomery, R. K., Buller, H. A., Rings, E. H., Dekker, J., & Grand, R. J. (2018). Lactose intolerance and regulation of small intestinal lactase activity. In Nutrition and gene expression (pp. 23-53). CRC Press.
Savaiano, D. A., Weaver, C. M., Teegarden, D., Welch, A., Lelievre, S., Jones, J. B., ... & Graves, L. M. (2017). Lactose intolerance: Perceptions, scientific realities and management. Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism, 8, 63-4.
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