10 Signs and Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

November 29, 2017

10 Signs and Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar in milk. Lactose is comprised of two sugar molecules: glucose and galactose. Lactose intolerant individuals have low activity of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose into gluctose and galactose. Lactose intolerance can also result from celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or infectious enteritis¹.

Lactose intolerance occurs in 65% of the world’s population. It is most prevalent in those of East Asian descent, as well as people of Jewish, Arab, Greek, Italian and West African descent. Only 5% of those with Northern European descent are lactose intolerant, due to a long history of dependency on unfermented milk products as a food source².

There are many signs and symptoms present with lactose intolerance. These symptoms can appear within 30 minutes to two hours after consuming dairy or dairy products3. The severity of the symptoms typically depends on the degree of deficiency of lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose4. In addition, there is variability among individuals regarding the symptoms experienced.

The more we become in touch with our bodies by listening to what they are telling us through various signs and symptoms, the greater our overall health and wellbeing. Listed below are the top 10 signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance:

Abdominal Pain
Muscle/Joint Pain
Mouth Ulcers

Some studies show that diarrhea is the most common symptom of lactose-intolerance4. Diarrhea resulting from food intolerances may be osmotic diarrhea. This kind of diarrhea occurs because undigested lactose acidifies the colon, increasing the osmotic load¹. These solutes
become retained in the intestine, causing water to be malabsorbed and resulting in diarrhea.

Not all who are lactose intolerant experience diarrhea. Some people also experience constipation, which may be due to decreased intestinal motility1. This decreased motility could be caused by the production of methane, which is a result of the undigested lactose in the intestine1. Along with constipation and diarrhea, a person could experience painful bowel movements.

In the colon, bacteria ferment the undigested lactose. This fermentation process in the large intestine produces short-chain fatty acids, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane1. The release of these gases by bacteria can cause intestinal distention and discomfort, creating bloating and abdominal pain as well as flatulence. Lactose intolerant individuals tend to produce gas that is distinctly odorous.

Those who are very intolerant to lactose may feel quite nauseous upon digesting lactose. These individuals may feel the urge to vomit. A person with this uncomfortable symptom may need to expel the food immediately, or they may be able to wait for the nausea to pass in time. Vomiting could be another sign of lactose intolerance.

Headaches and migraines are often linked with food allergies and intolerances. In a study of 76 children who experience migraines, it was found that 39% of the cases were provoked by the addition of cow’s milk into the diet5. These children also had related food intolerance symptoms of abdominal pain and nausea.

Other Symptoms

Not all the symptoms stemming from lactose-intolerance are digestive. Individuals who are lactose-intolerant can experience a wide range of symptoms, including neurological symptoms. Headaches and even migraines can be due to lactose-intolerance. Fatigue is another common sign of any kind of food sensitivity or allergy. Mouth sores, muscle and joint pains are other symptoms that are frequently experienced by those with lactose-intolerance.

Enzymedica produces several products that can promote healthy digestion of the most common foods people struggle with, including the lactose in dairy. Our Lacto formula contains the enzymes the body needs in order to break down the lactose in dairy products, including the enzyme lactase. When lactose is digested properly, then it does not enter the large intestine where symptoms of gas, bloating and abdominal pain occur.* Lacto can be taken at each meal when dairy products are present.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnosis, treat, prevent or cure any disease.

¹ Mattar, R., Mazo, D., Carrilho, F. (2012). Lactose intolerance: Diagnosis, genetic and clinical factors. Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology; 5:113-121. doi: 10.2147/CEG.S32368

² NIH, Lactose Intolerance. (2017, April). National Institute of Health. US Department of Health and Human Sciences. Retrieved from https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance#statistics

3 NIH, Lactose Intolerance. (2014, June). National Institute of Health. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/lactose-intolerance

4 Saha, M., Parveen, I., Shil, B., et al. (2016, July). Lactose Intolerance and Symptom Pattern of Lactose Intolerance among Healthy Volunteers. Euroasian Journal of Hepto-Gastroenterology; 6(1): 5-7. doi: 10.5005/jp-journals-10018-1156

5 Egger J, Soothill, J.F., Carter, C.M., et al. (1983). Is migraine food allergy? A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of oligoantigenic diet treatment. Lancet; 2: 865-869

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