Lactose intolerance: know the contributing factors
We have written several times here about the condition known as lactose intolerance. Being lactose intolerant means the body has difficulty breaking down and digesting the sugar in milk, which is known as lactose. The condition is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme lactase, which is produced in the small intestine. Those who are lactose intolerant do not have enough lactase available to digest lactose, resulting in stomach upset when certain dairy products are eaten. Approximately 30 minutes after eating or drinking, individuals experience bloating, gas, and diarrhea. The condition, which is also called lactose malabsorption, is usually harmless, but its symptoms can be uncomfortable. The symptoms are similar in adults, toddlers, and infants.
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, over 30 million American people over the age of 20 are lactose intolerant.
It’s important to understand certain factors contribute to lactose intolerance. Among them are:
- Infection. After a bout of infectious diarrhea, some children develop a temporary lactose intolerance that usually improves after a few days or weeks,
- Increasing age. Lactose intolerance usually appears in adulthood. The condition is uncommon in babies and young children.
- Ethnicity. Lactose intolerance is most common in people of African, Asian, Hispanic, and American Indian descent.
- Premature birth. Infants born prematurely may have reduced levels of lactase because the small intestine doesn’t develop lactase-producing cells until late in the third trimester.
- Diseases affecting the small intestine. Small intestine problems that can cause lactose intolerance include bacterial overgrowth, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease.
- Certain cancer treatments. Radiation therapy for cancer in the abdomen or intestinal complications from chemotherapy can lead to an increased risk of lactose intolerance.
Consider choosing GI North to address your lactose intolerance concerns and digestive health needs. Led by Dr. Cofrancesco and Dr. Quijano, GI North is located in Cumming, Georgia. Our offices are open five days a week in order to conveniently treat patients from all over the North Georgia area, including Alpharetta, Roswell, Canton, Suwanee, Sugar Hill, Buford, Duluth, Mountain Park, Norcross, Gainesville, Canton and Lilburn. GI North is also happy to offer treatment in Spanish, if requested.
While intended to be informational, this article cannot replace professional medical advice. If you suffer from lactose intolerance, require a colonoscopy, or are experiencing gastric distress, contact us at 1.404.446.0600 to schedule an appointment.
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