Doctor's Notes on Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is a common disorder caused by the inability to digest lactose, a carbohydrate found in milk and other dairy products. Normally, lactose is broken up by an enzyme called lactase located on the lining of the intestines that works to break up lactose into its smaller carbohydrate components, glucose and galactose. These two smaller molecules are more easily absorbed by the body and used for metabolism. Most commonly, lactose intolerance is an acquired condition. The intestinal wall can become damaged, commonly from infections or certain medications such as gastroenteritis, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, radiation therapy, diabetic enteropathy, HIV enteropathy, and some chemotherapeutic drugs. The complete absence of lactase at birth is a rare genetic condition where the gene responsible for producing the lactase enzyme is defective.
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DiarrheaDiarrhea can be caused by bacterial or viral infections, parasites, intestinal diseases or conditions, reactions to medications, and food intolerance or allergies. Symptoms of diarrhea include watery stools, abdominal cramping, fever, and dehydration. Most cases of diarrhea can be treated at home. In some cases (in the elderly, small children, or those with severe or chronic medical conditions) may need to be hospitalized due to dehydration.
Do Lactose Intolerance Pills Have Side Effects?Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body does not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to break down the sugars in dairy products (lactose). Most people do not have side effects from lactose intolerance pills, which contain the right digestive enzyme to break down lactose.
Flatulence (Gas)Flatulence (gas) is a normal bodily function. Excess gas may be produced by swallowing excess air, problems in the breakdown of undigested foods, lactose deficiency, malabsorbtion problems, and bowel habits such as parasites, poor dietary fiber, cancer, diverticulitis, thyroid problems, narcotic and other drug use.
Food AllergyFor someone with a food allergy, eating or swallowing even a tiny amount of a particular food can cause symptoms such as skin rash, nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea. The best way to prevent a food allergy is to avoid the foods one is allergic to.
Stomach Pain (Abdominal Pain) in ChildrenAbdominal pain in children can range from trivial to life-threatening. Symptoms of abdominal pain range from vomiting, diarrhea, fever, groin pain, urinary problems, or skin rash. The location of the abdominal pain may be around the belly button, occurs only at night, while eating. The pain pain also may be intermittent. Treatment of abdominal pain in children is depends on the cause. Possible causes of abdominal pain in children include infections, food related (food allergy or food poisoning), poisoning from medication, food, household products, appendicitis, diabetes, or spider bites.
Vomiting and NauseaVomiting and nausea are common complaints that accompany many conditions and diseases. A few common causes of vomiting and nausea include food poisoning, viruses, vertigo, head injuries, gallbladder disease, appendicitis, migraine, brain tumors, and infections. Treatment of vomiting and nausea depend on the cause of the symptoms.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.