Ask the Nurse

What prevents Lactose intolerance?

Let’s first begin with what it means to be lactose intolerant. Lactase is an enzyme located on the microvillus membrane of the intestinal cells in your small intestine. Its primary role is to convert lactose, which is found primarily in dairy containing products, to glucose and galactose.

When there is injury to the membrane of the intestinal cells or reduced expression of the lactase enzyme, symptoms of lactose intolerance start to occur after ingestion of milk or milk containing products. Those symptoms include:

  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

Why does this happen?

If lactose is not converted by lactase (the enzyme), then the lactose passes into the large intestine and the bacteria that resides there converts the lactose to hydrogen gas.

Two major causes of lactose malabsorption are:

  1. Developmental lactase deficiency
  2. Congenital lactase deficiency

In my professional opinion, there is no true way to prevent lactose intolerance, since we have no control of how much lactase we are born with and no control of how to prevent its loss as we mature in age. What we do control is our diet and how to prevent the symptoms once they begin.

More information on lactose intolerance and what foods can help prevent lactose intolerance symptoms.

All My Best,
Speaking of Women's Health Nurse

August 1, 2013 at 10:40am