Lactose Intolerance Risk Factors

If you suffer from lactose intolerance you cannot digest milk, where lactose (a sugar) is present. Hence, when you consume milk or milk product (dairy products), you may suffer from diarrhea, gas and bloating. The severity of symptoms depends on the enzyme deficiency. Lactase is the enzyme that digest or breakdown lactose into two simple sugars glucose and galactose. Among people with lactose intolerance, there is deficiency of lactase in varying degree. Some people are grossly deficient and cannot tolerate milk or milk products at all, and some have very minimal deficiency and can tolerate milk to a great extent.

What are the risk factors of lactose intolerance?

The risk factors include:

  • Premature birth: babies born prematurely may suffer from lactose intolerance, because the small intestine is not fully developed, from where lactase is secreted. Lactase producing cells develop in small intestine only in late third trimester of pregnancy. Hence, born before late third trimester of pregnancy, there is risk of lactase deficiency.
  • Various cancer treatments may lead to lactose intolerance, where radiotherapy is used in abdomen for treating cancer, which may damage lactase producing cells of intestine. Use or radiation therapy for abdominal cancer or abdominal metastasis may lead to lactose intolerance.
  • Various diseases that affect small intestine may lead to lactose intolerance, such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease or presence of excess bacteria in small intestine. All of these may lead to damage of lactase producing cells of small intestine and cause lactose intolerance.
  • Some ethnic groups are at greater risk of lactose intolerance, such as Asians, Africans, Hispanics, and American Indians.
  • Age is an important factor. As age increase risk of lactose intolerance increases. It is uncommon among babies and children.

It is important to understand the disease (lactose intolerance) and act accordingly to reduce severity of symptoms. It is best to avoid milk and milk products, especially a large serving to prevent symptoms from appearing. If you are very much fond of milk or milk product make sure to add only a small serving every time you consume it.

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