Lactose intolerance is usually harmless, but those who suffer from it can become very uncomfortable if they ingest dairy products. Lactose intolerant people cannot fully digest the sugar, or lactose, in milk and other diary products. Drinking a glass of milk or eating a nice bowl of ice cream can cause diarrhea, gas and bloating. Doctors refer to the condition as lactose malabsorption, which is a deficiency of an enzyme produced in your small intestine. Some people with low levels of lactase are still able to digest milk products without difficulty.
The symptoms of lactose intolerance can begin within 30 minutes or up to two hours after eating or drinking foods with lactose. The Mayo Clinic lists these common signs of lactose intolerance:
While these are common ailments, should you have these symptoms frequently after ingesting diary foods, it is advised that you consult with your doctor. There are a number of tests that can be performed to determine if you are, in fact, lactose tolerant. Doctors distinguish between a lactase deficiency, called hypolactasia, and a complete lack of lactase, alactasia, which is a rare congenital disability.
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