Lactose intolerance refers to one’s body’s inability to produce enough lactase–an enzyme–to break down lactose found in dairy products. If you have lactose intolerance, the lactose you consume gets into your colon instead of getting absorbed into the bloodstream, which brings about the symptoms of the condition.
Lactose Intolerance Risk Factors
Some factors may increase you or your child’s risk of developing lactose intolerance, which are:
Age: Lactose intolerance is not very common for babies and children. Most people develop lactose intolerance as adults as they age.
Early Birth: Premature babies may have lower levels of lactase in their system which may result in lactose intolerance.
Ethnicity: Genetically, people of African, Asian, Hispanic, and American-Indian descent are at an increased risk of developing lactose intolerance.
Gastrointestinal conditions: Some irregularities in the small intestine may lower lactase production, which can trigger lactose intolerance.
Certain cancer treatments: Chemotherapy and radiation therapy aimed at the abdomen may lead to a higher risk of lactose intolerance.
Primary Lactose Intolerance Causes
Lactose intolerance is a genetic condition, so it gets passed on. In most cases, lactose intolerance occurs when your body ceases to produce lactase with age even if you had no trouble digesting dairy as a child. We all start out with high levels of lactase as infants, but if even when the levels decrease as we age, some still produce enough to be able to digest dairy. Unfortunately, if you are lactose intolerant, your lactase levels completely drain as you grow older, and it becomes impossible to consume dairy products.
Other Lactose Intolerance Causes
Some ailments, injuries, and surgeries may result in a decreased amount of lactase production. Some conditions that are closely linked with lactose intolerance are Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and bacterial overgrowth. If there is an underlying condition that needs to be treated such as these, upon treatment, lactase levels may improve, which can lessen the severity of lactose intolerance symptoms.
In some rare cases, some babies may be born with lactose intolerance, meaning their bodies do not produce any lactase at all. This condition is referred to as autosomal recessive, which only occurs when both parents have lactose intolerance.
Babies who are born prematurely may have lactose intolerance because the 3rd trimester is when the lactase develops, but this is often temporary. Babies born with lactose intolerance often grow out of it over the course of a few months.
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