Lactose intolerance — also referred to as lactose malabsorption — is a condition that affects many individuals worldwide. It happens when lactose, a sugar present in dairy products, cannot be broken down by the body. As a result, it passes through the digestive tract undigested rather than being broken down and absorbed.

While the majority of people believe that lactose intolerance is a lifetime illness, it’s crucial to realize that it might appear later in life, even if you’ve never had any symptoms before.

The causes of lactose intolerance in adults, its symptoms, diagnosis, and potential treatment options will all be covered in this blog post. So, let’s explore this subject to learn more about lactose intolerance.

Development of lactose intolerance in adulthood

This disorder is commonly associated with genetic factors. It follows an inheritance pattern, being passed down from one generation to the next. While some people have a hereditary tendency to lactose intolerance from birth, others may age and produce less lactase.

The ability to generate lactase, an enzyme necessary for the small intestine’s role in the breakdown of lactose, is typically diminished in those who develop the illness later in life. This indicates that there is insufficient enzyme present to metabolize the lactose they consume.

People who develop the condition later in life usually have a reduced ability to produce lactase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose in the small intestine. This means there is not enough of the enzyme to break down the lactose they consume.

It is a natural process for lactase production to decrease over time. After childhood, it’s believed that 65% of people worldwide have a decreased capacity for digesting lactose. Various ethnic groupings have a varying percentage. For instance, compared to those of Northern European heritage, people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent are more prone to develop lactose intolerance later in life.

Symptoms and diagnosis of lactose intolerance

While lactose malabsorption is usually harmless its symptoms can be uncomfortable that can range from mild to severe and typically occur after consuming lactose-containing foods or beverages. Most symptoms usually begin from 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose.

Common symptoms include:

·        Bloating

·        Diarrhea

·        Nausea

·        Abdominal pain

·        Gas

These symptoms occur due to the undigested lactose reaching the large intestine, where it ferments and causes discomfort.

How to manage lactose intolerance

While lactose intolerance cannot be cured, there are a number of treatment techniques that can help people cope with the disease peacefully.

For most people, including those with late-in-life lactose intolerance, limiting or avoiding meals and beverages that contain lactose is one of the most popular strategies. Dairy items including milk, cheese, curd, and ice cream may fall under this category. Fortunately, the market is flooded with lactose-free substitutes, including lactose-free milk, soy milk, almond milk, and lactose-free cheese.

Different people react differently to lactose. While some people might be able to consume modest amounts of lactose without developing symptoms, others might need to completely cut out lactose from their diets. In order to determine each person’s tolerance levels, experimentation and keeping a food diary can be useful.

Purchasing over-the-counter lactase supplements is an additional choice. These supplements give the body the lactase enzyme it requires to break down lactose. It is best to take these vitamin supplements right before eating or drinking anything with lactose. Having said that, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking supplements.

Closing thoughts

In conclusion, even if you have never had symptoms previously, lactose intolerance can appear later in life. As we become older, our ability to produce lactase decreases, which can make it difficult to digest lactose and cause painful symptoms.

However, people with lactose intolerance can live a normal and satisfying life if they use the right management techniques, such as avoiding meals that contain lactose or taking lactase supplements.

If you suspect that you may have developed lactose intolerance, it is crucial to speak with a healthcare provider. A lactose intolerance test, such as a lactose tolerance test or a hydrogen breath test, may be performed by the healthcare professional. These tests measure the rate at which your body breaks down lactose and can reveal whether you are lactose intolerant or not.

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