As parents, you’re always going to worry about your children. You want what’s best for them so that they grow up to be strong and healthy adults. However, when they are toddlers, you’ll worry about anything and everything, especially when it comes to their food. You can tell if something is bothering your child. You can tell if they’re in pain or discomfort.
Some children have no problem with lactose while others may be lactose intolerant or perhaps even have an allergy. Here are some things that will help you understand lactose intolerance and what you can do about it.
1. What Exactly Is Lactose?
It’s a sugar that’s found in milk and dairy products. It can also be found in some baked goods, certain salad dressings, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, some cereals as well as in breast milk. Some medications may also contain lactose. The list is long, but if it contains any milk, then it has lactose. If you know your child is lactose intolerant, read the food labels when going grocery shopping to avoid any problems.
2. Is Lactose Intolerance The Same As Milk Allergy?
Absolutely not. These are two different conditions, one of which can be dangerous (allergy). Lactose intolerance is due to a lack of an enzyme called lactase. A milk allergy is due to an allergic reaction to the protein in milk and is a true food allergy. Lactose intolerance is a digestive issue whereas a milk allergy is associated with the immune system. While lactose intolerance can be quite uncomfortable, a milk allergy can produce anaphylaxis, which can be fatal.
3. What Are Some Of The Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance?
Symptoms produced depend on how much was ingested. The more lactose that was consumed, the more symptoms are experienced. Here are a few symptoms:
- Abdominal pain or cramps in the lower belly.
- Loose stools or diarrhea with gas. Stools may also be foamy.
- Gurgling sounds in the belly.
Symptoms can appear after a few minutes of consuming any dairy products or it could take hours as well. These symptoms may be mild or severe.
4. How Can I Find Out If My Child Is Lactose Intolerant?
One way is to completely eliminate all dairy products from your child’s diet. Do this for a couple of weeks. If there’s an improvement in your child’s symptoms, slowly reintroduce dairy products again. If he or she starts to exhibit symptoms again, it’s very likely that your child is lactose intolerant. Other ways include a hydrogen breath test or a stool acidity test. In a hydrogen breath test, hydrogen is measured first, followed by a drink that contains lactose. Hydrogen is measured again. If the hydrogen level increases after the drink, your child is lactose intolerant. For children who may not be able to do this test, a stool acidity test is performed. The stool sample will contain lactic and other acids. If glucose is present, then lactose was not digested.
5. Is Treatment Available Or Is It Lifelong?
The best thing to do is see your pediatrician, who may in turn refer your child to a dietitian. However, your pediatrician may suggest taking a supplement containing the enzyme lactase. If your child’s symptoms are really bad, then, with the advice of a registered dietitian, your child may have to abstain from lactose completely. Not to worry, since there are healthy and equally beneficial alternatives available. What can’t be obtained from milk and dairy can be obtained from other foods and beverages, so don’t worry, your child will not be losing out in the least bit.
As for the condition being lifelong, there is no definite answer since it depends on certain factors, however, it can be lifelong. Again, this is not a huge problem, but even as adults, your child will have to alter their diet to stave off symptoms. However, there are ways to successfully deal with issues so that nutritionally, your child will not really be at a drawback. The only time to be extra cautious is when eating out. Care has to be taken to make sure there’s no dairy, but many people ask waiters or staff to make sure, so it should never be a problem.