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Health Tips / Lactose Intolerance

Diagnosis and Symptoms

The inability to breakdown or digest lactose, the main sugar found in milk is referred to as lactose intolerance. Lactose is broken down into glucose and galactose by the lactase enzyme, which is normally found in the bowel, as part of the digestion process. If lactose remains intact and is not digested, it remains in the bowel, causing fluid retention in the bowel resulting in diarrhoea. Fermentation of the undigested lactose can also result in acidic and gaseous stools. Those suffering from lactose intolerance will fail to gain weight, feel bloated and flatulent, and suffer abdominal cramps. Such effects happen within 20 to 30 minutes after taking a lactose containing product. In Northern Europe, it is reckoned that about 20% of people suffer from lactase-enzyme deficiency.

Doctors often recommend a lactose intolerance test to diagnose lactose intolerance. For a positive test, the patient will suffer diarrhoea within 30 minutes of ingesting lactose. Blood glucose levels are also measured during the test and in a positive case blood glucose levels do not increase as lactose is not broken down into glucose and galactose. Alternatively, a breath test, which measures the amount of hydrogen produced from lactose, is considered to be a safer, more reliable method of determining lactose intolerance. Hydrogen is produced when undigested lactose ferments in the body.

Adults and children can suffer from lactose intolerance. Some infants are born with low or no lactase enzymes. After the age of two a child's body produces less lactase enzyme, although the symptoms may not show up until years later. Lactose intolerance may be a cause of colic in babies.

Preventative Measures 

Lactose intolerance can be controlled by a lactose-free diet. Foods containing lactose, such as dairy products- milk, yoghurt, cheese, milk powder, chocolate, should be avoided. Product labels should be checked as many products and some medicines contains lactose.

For infants, soya based powders such as INFASOY WYSOY and SMA LF may be used as an alternative to milk. If a lactose-free diet is maintained then calcium supplements should be taken to compensate for the lack of calcium rich dairy products.

Non-Prescription Treatments 

If milk products are to be taken, the lactose can broken down by treatment with lactase enzyme. For infants products such as COLIEF INFANT DROPS may be used to break down the lactose content of the feed. 

Further Information on medicines including dosage is available at

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Last update: 16/05/2013 12:38 • Previous update: 30/11/-0001 00:00