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Lactose Intolerance (cont.)

Lactose Intolerance Symptoms

Patient Comments

It is important to recognize that deficiency in the lactase enzyme does not necessarily translate into lactose intolerance. Many people with mild degrees of lactase deficiency have no symptoms and are able tolerate lactose ingestion. On the other hand, people with severe lactase deficiency may have symptoms even with minimal amount of lactose ingestion.

The amount of lactose in the diet and the difference in the make up of bacteria in the colon are other factors that determine the variability and severity of symptoms in some individuals.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • bloating
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • flatulence (passing gas)
  • nausea

The production of gas (flatus) is the result of the activity of bacteria in the large intestine (colon). As the large lactose molecule passes unchanged through the small intestines, it is metabolized by the bacteria that are normally present in the colon. As a result, certain gases, such as hydrogen, are produced and are released from the rectum.

Additionally, a portion of the lactose reaching the colon does not get metabolized by the bacteria. Because these larger molecules are accompanied with an increase in secretion of water through osmosis, this results in the passage of loose stools and diarrhea.

When to Seek Medical Care for Lactose Intolerance

Most people with lactose intolerance are able to manage their symptoms without any medical care. Generally, lactose intolerance symptoms are mild, intermittent in nature, self-limited, and not life-threatening.

However, in the presence of severe diarrhea, marked abdominal pain, fever, or other unusual and prolonged symptoms, a prompt visit to the doctor's office or the emergency room may be advisable to ensure that other more serious conditions are investigated.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/1/2016
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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Lactose Intolerance:

Lactose Intolerance - Treatment

What are the symptoms you experience from lactose intolerance?

Lactose Intolerace - Diet

What has been the most challenging part of modifying your diet to accommodate your lactose intolerance?

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