Lactose intolerance is classified as one of the most widely distributed ailments affecting people currently due to the fact that 65 to 70% of people in the world suffer from some degree of this disorder. Lactose intolerance is a type of food sensitivity that occurs when the body lacks the ability to properly process and metabolize lactose, a sugar that is found in milk and other milk products.
On the other hand, a milk (or casein) allergy is a reaction in the body to the proteins found in milk, which can be much more dangerous, and even fatal in extreme cases. Compared to lactose intolerance, lactose intolerance is far less severe, consisting primarily of digestive symptoms. We will examine in detail the most common symptoms of lactose intolerance in more detail in the following paragraphs
1. Cramps and stomach pain
In most cases, it is a safe bet to assume that you might be lactose intolerant if, after having a meal containing milk or dairy products, you experience stomach cramps or pain. Inability of the body to process the lactose effectively can lead to distension, among other things, which are often accompanied by digestive distress. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that the severity of the pain is based entirely on the individual’s particular sensitivity towards lactose
2. Loose stools, diarrhea
In order to digest the lactose sugars in your colon, your body may produce a lot of extra water or fluids in your system due to its struggle to do so. Consequently, it may cause diarrhea or loose stools as a result of this problem. You might notice that the microflora in your gut tends to reabsorb the short-chain fatty acids they produce during the digestion of lactose, resulting in more loose bowel movements than usual
3. Bloating and gas
In the previous paragraph, it was mentioned that when the lactose reaches the large intestine, the microflora in your gut ferments it. The lactose will not be able to be absorbed by the body, and therefore it will settle to the surface and be broken down by the bacteria present there. In turn, excess gas production may result in distention of the belly as a result of the excess gas production. The main components of intestinal gas in lactose intolerance include methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide, due to the nature of lactose intolerance. It is usually considered that the amount of gas you produce is an indicator of how effectively the colon is absorbing lactose in your system, as well as the rate at which the gas in question is produced
In addition to diarrhea being an indicator of lactose intolerance, constipation is often used as an indicator of the presence of the condition. In rare cases, the cause of this problem can be related to the release of methane, when short-chain fatty acids are reabsorbed. This may lead to inability to pass stools or hardening of stools in some individuals.
5. Ulcers in the mouth
It is worth mentioning that mouth ulcers, also known as canker sores, might be another symptom that is less known. These tend to manifest as small, stinging areas of inflammation in the mouth that are not related to cold sores, nor are they contagious or infectious. When the presence of milk protein is present in the mouth, it can cause discomfort in the cheeks, gums, or even the tongue of the individual with the intolerance. Despite the fact that it is important to note that oral health can deteriorate without the presence of calcium in the body, so if you suspect that you have a lactose intolerance, you should still make sure to get calcium from other sources (i.e. fish with bones, fortified soy, curly kale, okra).
In addition to the symptoms listed above, there are still others associated with this condition (e.g., headaches, fatigue, etc.). Always consult your physician if you believe you are experiencing lactose intolerance symptoms.