Have you ever tried to drink milk or other dairy products and felt sick? The reason they get sick is because they are lactose intolerance and they are unable to digest large amounts of lactose. The reason this happens is because they have a shortage of lactase which is normally produced by the cells that line the small intestine. Lactase breaks down the sugars into a easier form that can then be absorbed into the bloodstream. When there is not enough lactase present the results are not dangerous but can be distressing. Although not everyone who has a deficiency in lactose have symptoms, those who do are said to be lactose intolerant. Common symptoms include nausea, cramps, bloating, gas and diarrhea which begin about 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose. The symptoms vary depending on the amount of lactose that an individual can tolerate. For many people the lactase deficiency is a condition that develops over time. After about the age of two, the body produces less lactase. Most people experience symptoms when they are older. About 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant.
The most common tests used to measure the absorption of lactose in the digestive system are the lactose tolerance test, the hydrogen breath test, and the stool acidity test. These can be performed as an outpatient basis at a hospital, clinic, or doctor's office. Lactose intolerance is very easy to treat. Symptoms can be controlled through a diet. Young children who have the deficiency should not eat foods containing lactose. Adults do not need to avoid lactose completely but just differ in the types and amount of food they can handle. Lactose reduced milk and other products are available in supermarkets to buy.