Certain people experience stomach cramps 30mins- 2hours after consuming milk or milk related products. This abdominal pain is mainly as a result of a health condition called Lactose Intolerance.
Milk is a white liquid produced from the mammary glands of mammals. It is rich in nutrients and used as a food source. Milk is the primary source of nutrients in infants mammals before they are able to digest foods. Milk contains a variety of nutrients ranging from essential amino acids, fats, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrate which are essential for optimal health in individuals. Common milk that are familiar in our world today are :
- Human milk
- Cow milk
- Goat milk
Milk can be used to produce different other products like yoghurt, cheese, ice cream, pudding, hot chocolate etc. All these products have milk as their base ingredient. Milk is often added to breakfast cereal, granola and porridge to make them more palatable. Milk is also served in coffee, tea and used in preparation of espresso based drinks such as cafe latte.
Lactose intolerance is a condition whereby people are unable to fully digest the sugar in milk. This condition is usually harmless but the feeling is very uncomfortable. When milk is ingested in the body, the milk sugar is required to digest completely, but some people are unable to produce enough of the enzyme Lactase and this is the main cause of lactose intolerance.
Lactase is an enzyme produced in the small intestine. Lactase turns milk sugar into two simple sugars called glucose and galactose which are absorbed into the blood stream through the intestinal lining. If your body does not produce enough lactase, the lactose which is the sugar in milk will move into the colon instead of being processed and absorbed. In the colon, there are normal bacteria which will interact with the lactose and lead to symptoms and signs of lactose intolerance.
There are 3 types of lactose intolerance and they are;
- Primary Lactose Intolerance
This is the most common type of lactose intolerance. People who experience this type usually start life with a normal production of lactase in the small intestine. When children replace milk with other foods, the normal lactase production reduces and by the time they get to adulthood, the lactase production falls sharply, making milk difficult to digest.
- Secondary Lactose Intolerance
This type of lactose intolerance occurs when your small intestine decreases lactase production after an illness, injury or surgery involving your small intestine. Secondary lactase intolerance is associated with some diseases like, intestinal infections, celiac disease and bacterial over growth. The lactase levels can be improved by treating the underlying disease, though it may take time.
- Congenital Lactose Intolerance
It is a rare condition that occurs in babies. The babies are born with a lactose intolerance disorder. This disorder is passed from generation to generation in a pattern of inheritance called autosomal recessive. Autosomal recessive means that both the father and the mother must pass on the same gene variant for the a child to be affected. Premature infants also suffer from lactose intolerance because of insufficient lactase level. This is because the small intestine does not develop lactase-producing cells until late in the third trimester.
Stomach cramp is not the only symptom of lactose intolerance, there are various other symptoms. Some symptoms include;
- Stomach bloating
The most effective way of treating lactose intolerance is to stop the consumption of milk and milk-related products. Do not get confused when you see products that contain lactic acid, lactalbumin, lactate or casein, these ingredients are not lactose.