More than 12 million people in Germany can not digest milk properly. Diarrhea, nausea, indigestion and abdominal pain are the consequences. The cause of lactose intolerance (lactose intolerance) is the lack or inadequate activity of the digestive enzyme lactase. This enzyme splits milk sugar (lactose) into the constituents glucose and galactose on the small intestinal mucous membrane of humans.
What happens with lactose intolerance in the gut?
If this function is disturbed, the lactose gets into the bacteria colonized large intestine and serves there the colon bacteria as food. The lactose and the short-chain fatty acids produced during bacterial fermentation lead to an influx of water into the large intestine.
The stretch stimulus simultaneously stimulates the intestinal movement. Depending on the extent of lactose intolerance, the resulting symptoms range from flatulence and feelings of fullness to convulsive abdominal pain and watery diarrhea.
Innate or acquired?
While the prevalence in Germany is 15 percent, 90 to 100 percent of residents in Asia suffer from lactose intolerance. Worldwide, more than 50 percent of the population is affected. It is important to know that lactose intolerance is not an allergy, but an enzyme deficiency disease.
In addition to a primary or congenital lactase deficiency, which manifests itself in infancy, one differentiates the acquired or secondary lactase deficiency. The acquired lactose deficiency of the adult may develop to heretofore normal milk sugar compatibility due to small intestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease.
Other triggers include:
- bacterial infections
- Fungal infections of the intestine
- intestinal flu
- Stomach and intestinal operations
- the administration of antibiotics or cytostatics
The exact cause of the loss of enzyme activity in adulthood is unknown.
Lactose intolerance is often recognized late
Although around 12 million people in Germany are affected by a lactose intolerance (lactose intolerance), the disease fades a shadowy existence: it often takes years for a correct diagnosis of lactose intolerance.
Who visits a doctor because of his complaints, especially diarrhea and bloating, often suffers a bitter disappointment. The way to the right diagnosis Lactose intolerance is long, often years pass, until a simple but successful nutritional therapy is started.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance
The timely recognition of lactase deficiency would save many desperate, suffering patients from unpleasant examinations or even embarrassment diagnoses of, for example, a psychosomatic illness. The unspecific and individually variable symptoms after consuming lactose-containing foods provide clues to the disease. These include:
- spasmodic pain
- bowel sounds
- and even depressive moods
Diagnosis is by means of breath test
The diagnosis is made via the milk sugar load test or H2 breath test. If the lactase deficiency is innate, the patient must adjust to a permanent diet change. If it occurs only with increasing age and in connection with one of the above triggers, treatment of the underlying disease leads to a significant improvement in symptoms.