This is a common digestive problem due to an inability to digest lactose (milk sugar). Lactose is the main sugar in milk and milk products from mammals (e.g. humans, cows, goats). Lactose is digested by the enzyme lactase in the small intestine of the gut. If lactase activity is low, undigested lactose passes into the large bowel, where it can cause symptoms of lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is often confused with milk allergy, but it is NOT an allergy
Common symptoms of lactose intolerance include:
Primary lactose intolerance is very rare and does not usually present until after 2 years of age, usually in later childhood/ adulthood. This is due to an inherited genetic fault and runs in the families.
Secondary lactose intolerance
It can occur at any age and is usually as a result of another condition i.e. gastroenteritis, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or surgery to your small intestine or due to taking certain medications.
The secondary lactase deficiency occurs due low production of lactase enzyme. Once the gut becomes healthy, the problem resolves. Often you find an improvement in symptoms within 48 hours of removal of lactose from the diet.
Lactose intolerance is usually a clinical diagnosis based symptoms. Sometimes additional tests may be required in secondary care, if symptoms are persistent. There is no relationship between lactose intolerance in adult family members including the mother and in the babies. Breast milk contains lactose (as does any mammalian milks) and decreasing the dairy content in maternal diet does not alter the amount of lactose in breast milk
There are a few lactose-free formula available in the market: