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Lactose intolerance: Why some people feel sick after drinking milk

BY: Swati | Category: Food and Drinks | Post Date: 2008-09-25

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The regular sugar we use in every day life comes from sugarcane, but that is not the only sugar that exists in nature. Many plants extracts and animal dairy products have sugar naturally including cow's milk( or buffalo milk) .

What is lactose intolerance?
"Lactose" is the main sugar compound found in cow's milk and when humans drink cow's milk they need an enzyme called "lactase" to digest it. Every individual is different and the quantity of this enzyme (lactase) produced in our body varies among everyone, people whose intestines produce less amount of "lactase" feel sick after drinking dairy milk and this is called as "Lactose intolerance". Proper lactase level is required to convert lactose sugar into glucose and galactose. Between 30 and 50 million Americans are believed to be lactose intolerant ( that is about 10 to 15% of entire population).

Lactose intolerance causes bloating, stomach cramps, nausea, indigestion, diarrhea and gas if more than a certain amount of milk is consumed. It is not same as "cow's milk intolerance" which is an allergic reaction, while Lactose intolerance is digestive system abnormality specifically due to lactase and not because you are allergic to milk.

Most people are less tolerant to lactose as they grow older, therefore most people will not notice symptoms until they are much older. Certain ethnic and racial populations are more likely to develop Lactose intolerance than others, like Asians and Africans seem to have a higher problem than Europeans.

Most people with Lactose intolerance can still drink milk in smaller quantity without problems while others can still have dairy products in other forms like ice cream, yogurt and aged cheeses (ex: cheddar and Swiss). Calcium is an important part of our diet and if drinking milk makes you feel sick, then take it in other forms. In all cases do consult your doctor for best advice.

Most doctors will start with telling you to eliminate milk to see if the symptoms go away, if they do then they will usually do additional tests co confirm your situation. Common tests include (The Lactose Tolerance Test, The Hydrogen Breath Test, Intestinal biopsy and Stool Acidity Test).

Processed foods may have Lactose too:
Lactose may be present in other forms of processed foods like margarine, salad dressings, candies, cookies, bread, pancakes etc..

I am not a doctor, therefore please consider visiting the following pages or consult your medical specialist for an expert's advice.
References and Suggested reading:
- digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/lactoseintolerance/
- www.iffgd.org

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