Lactose intolerance is the most common food intolerance among the European population: 1 out of 6 Europeans are affected. Before lactose can be absorbed into the bloodstream, it must first be broken down by lactase, an enzyme in the intestine. The intestine produces lactase in childhood since newborns must be able to digest breast milk in order to survive. As the child’s body prepares to digest other foods, the genes responsible for the production of lactase are gradually deactivated.
As such, even babies who have the ability to digest lactose early on will gradually build up an intolerance to lactose. Eventually, the body is no longer able to digest lactose at all and consumption of lactose can precipitate a broad range of symptoms. Non-digested lactose is an excellent source of nutrients for intestinal bacteria, which seize the opportunity to multiply rapidly in our digestive tract. The lactose is broken down into different acids and fermentation produces various gases. This process results in diverse symptoms that vary in intensity from person to person. Symptoms include digestive problems such as abdominal bloating, cramps and diarrhea as well as a number of nonspecific complaints such as fatigue or skin problems.
Most people in the world are lactose intolerant. However, genes that continued to produce lactase through childhood and adulthood spread through populations of ancient people who raised cattle. As a result, most adults from populations with a history of dairy farming have the ability to digest lactose. Today, 5 of 6 Europeans can enjoy dairy products. Due to this figure, Europeans view lactose tolerance as the norm, whereas persons that cannot digest lactose are considered to suffer from food intolerance.
Thus, we list lactose intolerance as a disease.
A lactose-free diet can prevent all symptoms of lactose intolerance. Individuals should familiarize themselves with foods that contain lactose. Unfortunately, lactose intolerance is often misdiagnosed for years as the severity of symptoms depends on the amount of lactose an individual consumes. As
symptoms of lactose intolerance are often misinterpreted as general digestive discomfort, gene testing to determine lactose intolerance can help clear up any personal intolerance you may have and prevent further complications.