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Reason for increased lactose intolerance with age finally discovered

  • 2 Min To Read
  • 3 months ago

Cheese, ice cream, milk, and butter are often considered the ultimate comfort foods. These dairy products seem to enhance the taste of almost any dish. However, as we age, our bodies may struggle to digest dairy, leading to discomfort and other symptoms.

Lactose, the natural sugar found in dairy products, requires the presence of an enzyme called lactase to be properly digested. This enzyme breaks down lactose into simple sugars that can be absorbed by the small intestine. When lactose is not digested, it moves to the colon and undergoes fermentation, resulting in symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, excess gas, diarrhea, and the sudden urge to have a bowel movement.

Approximately 75% of the world's population loses their ability to digest lactose as they get older. This decrease in lactase production is a natural process that occurs after infancy. Initially, humans produce significant amounts of lactase to digest lactose in breast milk. However, as solid foods are introduced, lactose consumption decreases, leading to a reduction in lactase production over time.

Genetics also play a role in lactose intolerance. The ability to digest lactose into adulthood depends on specific gene variants inherited from parents, which influence lactase activity. People of Southeast Asian, East Asian, West African, Native American, and Hispanic descent are more likely to carry gene mutations that contribute to lactose intolerance. However, lactose intolerance can occur in anyone.

In addition to genetics, other factors can contribute to an increase in lactose intolerance. Gastrointestinal illnesses, small intestine injuries, surgeries, and conditions like Crohn's disease can affect lactase stores and impact lactose tolerance. Infections, inflammatory or autoimmune diseases, chemotherapy, and antibiotics can also cause intestinal mucosa injury and lead to lactose intolerance.

While the decline in lactase production cannot be reversed, there are ways to manage lactose intolerance symptoms. These include identifying and eliminating the dairy products that cause the worst symptoms, limiting lactose intake per meal, consuming fermented dairy products like probiotic yogurt or kefir, avoiding other food sensitivities and allergens, switching to plant-based non-dairy alternatives, taking probiotics with specific strains, and using lactase supplements.

It is important to consult with a doctor before making any dietary changes or taking supplements, as they can help determine the cause of lactose intolerance and recommend appropriate actions to improve gut health.

In conclusion, lactose intolerance is a common condition that can occur as we age due to a natural decline in lactase production and genetic factors. While it cannot be cured, there are ways to manage symptoms and improve gut health.

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