The small intestines contain an enzyme called lactase that enables the body to digest lactose (a sugar or carbohydrate constituent in milk and dairy products). When lactase fails to digest these sugars, the condition is called lactose intolerance. Nevertheless, the condition is different from milk allergy, an unusual reaction of the immune system upon taking milk and milk products. Common signs of lactose intolerance include:
1. Diarrhea or loose stools
During the fermentation, microflora bacteria break lactose into short-chain fatty acids. The process increases the water content in the colon, which passes out of the body in the form of loose stools. However, the frequency of the urge to visit the toilet escalates beyond normal, leading to diarrhea. When the carbohydrate levels in the colon surpass 45 grams, and the liquid levels are elevated, diarrhea is inevitable. However, note that lactose intolerance is not the only reason for excessive carbohydrates in the gut causing diarrhea.
2. Increased gas or bloating
Fermentation of lactose in the colon produces hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide gases. Excessive production of these gases causes you to feel like your stomach is full of gases. The feeling is called bloating. Usually, a hydrogen breath test helps to determine if a person is lactose intolerant. Typically, you will take a fluid with high amounts of lactose. Any detection of high hydrogen levels will indicate you have lactose intolerance. However, gases produced due to lactose intolerance have no smell.
3. Stomach pain
When the small intestines fail to break down lactose, it is pushed into the large intestines. The colon does not have cells that can absorb carbohydrates in lactose. However, microflora bacteria help to ferment the lactose leading to fluids and gaseous release. The surge in fluids and gases causes the walls in the gut to stretch. A condition called distention. The process leads to pains around the lower belly and navel.
An uncomfortable movement of your bowels with difficulty in passing stool leads to this condition. In lactose intolerance, the situation happens mainly because of methane gas. The gas reduces the time that food moves in the digestive tract. It is mainly caused by low physical activity, dehydration, or the use of some drugs. Therefore, you should consult with your health practitioner if certain dairy products trigger this condition.
Dietary migraines are common due to the consumption of certain food products. For example, when the digestive system fails to handle lactose in dairy products, it can trigger a headache. Usually, some blood vessels in the brain begin to dilate or constrict on taking such products. As a result, it causes an intense pulsing or throbbing effect on your brain, leading to a migraine. However, whereas some people only get mild headaches, the severity may differ in others.
6. Mouth Ulcers
Also known as canker sores, or aphthous stomatitis, it is a condition of recurring mouth sores. Some researchers postulate that the ulcers occur due to higher anti-cow milk protein antibodies in the blood of those who have recurring mouth sores. Therefore, the body’s immune system fights against dairy products on the mucosal lining, causing sores. These sores quickly disappear by abstaining from milk products after several days. However, the sores may recur after taking milk products, an indication of lactose intolerance.