Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to tolerate or digest lactose anymore? It’s quite surprising because, for years, you had enjoyed drinking milk and eating cheeses and ice cream with no trouble. Suddenly, eating dairy no longer sits well with your stomach.
Well, it turns out that late onset lactose intolerance is more common than we think.
Lactose intolerance can actually occur with aging. According to Dr. Morgan Sendizchew Shane, MD, a gastroenterologist from the University of Miami, it can happen when the body stops to reproduce copies of the gene responsible for making the enzyme lactase, which digests lactose in dairy products.
The health condition does not occur similarly among everyone, too. People can experience varying degrees of lactose intolerance. This is because people can also have different levels of lactase in their systems.
How does a person become lactose intolerant?
Lactose intolerance occurs when an individual is lactase deficient. Hence, lactose from products rich in dairy ends up in the colon instead of being absorbed in the small intestine. Lactose in the colon will then be broken down by bacteria, and it can cause common symptoms like bloating, stomach cramps, gas, and diarrhea.
But why are there more lactose intolerant adults than babies or children? Most infants possess the necessary lactase enzyme in order to digest the milk they need for nourishment. However, as children grow and gain the ability to eat solid foods, their dependence on milk decreases — and so does their lactase production. This causes a type of lactose intolerance called primary lactose intolerance.
There are cases, though, where babies are born with lactose. It happens when both the baby’s mother and father possess the same gene variant that causes the condition. This type of lactose intolerance is called congenital lactose intolerance.
There is another type of lactose intolerance: secondary lactose intolerance. This does not occur gradually unlike the primary type. Instead, it can arise due to an inflammation of the colon, which is sometimes caused by surgeries. However, this condition often improves in time.
Managing lactose intolerance
Becoming lactose intolerant can be challenging especially if you are used to eating a diet rich in dairy. The symptoms of lactose intolerance may not be life-threatening, but they can range from mildly annoying to truly painful.
Fortunately, simply beginning to eat a lactose-free diet is effective in managing these symptoms. There are a lot of dairy-free options today that you can enjoy, too. It also helps a lot to consult a doctor and, if necessary, undergo a DNA test for lactose intolerance to address your condition in relation to your specific health needs.
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