Lactose Intolerance – What it is and What it is not

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Lactose Intolerance- What it is & What it is not.

What is Lactose?

Lactose is milk sugar found in milk and milk products, such as yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and any other foods that might contain milk.
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What is Lactase?

Lactase is the enzyme present in your small intestine, that helps with the breakdown of lactose during digestion.

This enzyme breaks lactose into two simple sugars: glucose and galactose. In the simplest forms, the sugar can be absorbed readily in the body for energy.

When the body does not produce and release enough lactase enzyme, lactose remains unbroken in the small intestine. This undigested lactose becomes a substrate for the gut microbiome to ferment and produce gas.

Have you noticed your child complaining of an upset stomach/ stomachache after eating ice cream or a glass of milk or bowl of curd?
Here are some symptoms that you can look out for after your child consumes any diary product:
  • Abdominal/Lower belly pain
  • Loose stools /diarrhea
  • Stomach bloating and gurgling sound in the tummy
  • Nausea
  • Gas
  • Skin rash
  • Frequent bouts of cold & fever

Lactose is found in breast milk, and most children have sufficient lactase when they are born and can comfortably digest lactose in breast milk.

A severe infection or allergic reaction can cause a temporary deficit of the lactase enzyme and result in lactose intolerance at any age.

In most cases, lactose intolerance can develop idiopathically or without any known cause by the time the child is between 3-6 years of age.

 Symptoms are seen in school-age children or during the teenage years but become more evident in adulthood.

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The most effective strategy for the management of lactose intolerance is the elimination of milk & dairy products.

This raises concerns about how well the child be able to meet his/ her calcium requirements in a diet lacking dairy.

It's a myth that dairy is the only good source of calcium. Your child's calcium needs can be met easily through plant-based sources like sesame seeds, almonds, tofu, ragi, amaranth, etc. 

If the child is unable to tolerate milk, it need not mean your child may not be tolerant to other dairy products.

Based on the varying degree of lactose intolerance the child may be able to digest milk/ yogurt/ cottage cheese/ cheese in certain small quantities.

As you work with a dietitian/ nutritionist that understands the internal metabolism and how it can be programmed to meet your child's nutritional needs- you will be able to consciously keep away trigger foods & in the long run support your child's gut health and immune system.


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