Need to Know about Lactose Intolerance in Children

Cartoon on Lactose Intolerance
Three days ago I was invited to provide a health orientation at an Elementary school about the kind of foods which should be given to children and knowing the food they can tolerate but surprisingly people aren't aware of Food intolerance especially in this part of the world. which is getting quite common in today’s children and it can be difficult to know whether your infant or child is having symptoms of lactose intolerance or whether he or she may have a milk allergy.

For many Kids, an ice cream Sunday or cool glass of milk at lunch means an afternoon of cramps, gas and diarrhea.

What is Lactose?

Lactose is a sugar found in foods that many children love-milk and dairy products, such as frozen yoghurt, some breads, cereals and frozen canned foods. Lactose is broken down by the lactase enzyme located in small intestine. When we eat lactose, lactase breaks lactose down into two simple sugars: glucose and Galactose. The body absorbs these simple sugars into our intestine. When there is a decrease or loss of the lactase enzyme, we cannot break down or absorb lactose. The unabsorbed lactose can lead to symptoms which is called intolerance.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a condition caused by lack of an enzyme called lactase. Inadequate amounts of lactase cause the body to be unable to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. The disorder affects some populations more than others: African-American, Jewish, Mexican Americans e.t.c. it is least common among people with a northern European Heritage.

What Causes Lactose Intolerance?

The painful gas in lactose Intolerance
Injuries or Diseases at the small intestine which can reduce the amount of enzymes produced which is the usual cause of intolerance in children. But, most causes of Lactose intolerance develop over a period of many years in adolescents and adults.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Children?

Symptoms that are observed depend on the amount of Lactose that’s consumed, the time (30 minutes and 2 hours) of consumption of a diary product. Here are symptoms you should look out for:
  • ·         Cramps
  • ·         Painful gas
  • ·         Bloating
  • ·         Gas
  • ·         Diarrhoea
  • ·         Malnourishment
  • ·         Gradual growth
  • ·         Watery eyes
  • ·         Coughing
  • ·         Vomiting
  • ·         Stools

How is Lactose Intolerance Diagnosed?

The most common diagnostic tests are used to measure the absorption in the Digestive system include:

Lactose Tolerance Test- 

This test measures the absorption of Lactose in digestive system. After Fasting, the patient drinks a Liquid that contains lactose. The diarrhoea stools are then tested for the next 24 hours.

Undigested lactose fermented by bacteria in the colon creates lactic acid and other fatty acids, which can be detected in a stool sample, along with glucose as a result of unabsorbed lactose.

Hydrogen breath Test- 

The patient drinks a lactose- heavy beverage. The breath is then analysed at regular intervals to measure the amount of hydrogen. Undigested Lactose in the colon is fermented by bacteria, resulting in the production of various gases, including hydrogen. When high levels of hydrogen are present in the breath improper digestion of lactose is diagnosed.

Stool Acidity test- 

This test used in infants and young children measures the amount of acid in the stool. Lactic acid and glucose, produced by undigested lactose,  and other fatty acids can be detected in a stool sample.

How is Lactose intolerance treated?

Treatment of Lactose intolerance depends on the extent of your child’s symptoms. Some children with lactose intolerance may be able to small amounts of dairy products without having symptoms.
        Your paediatrician may recommend an over-the-counter Lactase enzyme supplement to alleviate the symptoms.
        If the symptoms are severe, your paediatrician may refer your child to registered dietitian. Since dairy is a good source of calcium and vitamin D..  which all kids need while a dietitian can suggest other foods to provide those nutrients.

Finding levels of Lactose intolerance

The committee of Nutrition for the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends slowly introducing the dairy products to Judge the Child’s level of tolerance.
  • ·         Some children are able to tolerate one glass of milk, but get symptoms with a second one
  • ·         Some can’t tolerate milk but can tolerate yoghurt while some can tolerate hard cheese.
  • ·         Keep a record of your child’s tolerance by first eliminating and slowly reintroducing specific dairy products and observing the change in symptoms.
  • ·         Based on this record, you can monitor his diary intake and make sure he does not miss out on his nutrients.

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