Lactose Intolerance

by Lana Aga

What exactly is it?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to consume dairy products. It is caused by a lactase deficiency which cannot break down lactose properly. Blood sugar doesn't rise after eating lactose sugar, like it does in lactose tolerant individuals.

It is never inherited because babies must be able to digest breast milk or they cannot survive or get their necessary nutrients. Becoming lactose intolerant has to do with your diet, where you live, your age, and your ethnicity. However, the very rare case of an infant being born with lactose intolerance is called Cogenital Lactase Deficiency, and it only occurs in infants with the autosomal recessive pattern which is extremely rare.

How common is it?

Lactose intolerance is actually more common than tolerance of lactose, affecting 75% of people in the entire world! (25% in just America) Most lactose intolerant people are Asian.
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Who is lactose intolerant?

Many celebrities are lactose intolerant, including Miley Cyrus, Cyndi Lauper, and Mark Spitz. It's a very common mutation, and anyone not born with it is most likely to develop lactose intolerance by adulthood.

How likely am I to get it?

Lactose intolerance is found in 90% of Asians, 74% of Native Americans, and 70% of black people. Only 53% of Mexican adults have lactose intolerance; many scientists believe this is because of how much dairy is eaten in Mexican culture, and most Mexicans have an abundance of lactase--the enzyme needed to digest milk and dairy.
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How do I know if I have lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerant people experience bloating and cramps after consuming dairy. However, some worse cases also experience diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and excessive gas.

No proteins are affected in lactose intolerant people, so doctors cannot diagnose lactose intolerance except by its symptoms. In fact, being tolerant of lactose is where proteins are affected (yet the change is so minor it is barely observed); children are born with lactase in order to digest breast milk, but this enzyme is usually lost on the way to adulthood. The few cases where it stays is a mutation, so being lactose intolerant is actually normal.

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If I am lactose intolerant, what does my karotype look like?

There is no specific karotype for lactose intolerant people because the small change isn't enough to note. However, being lactose tolerant has a slight difference on #2.

There is also a pedigree showing that most lactose tolerant people have lactose tolerant children, and vice versa. Although affected through adulthood, lactose intolerance is also affected by genetics.

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Can I never eat dairy again?

Yes, and no. There are several temporary solutions to lactose intolerance, including 'Lactaid' pills or other lactase supplements. There are also long term solutions, like a change of diet and switching to almond milk instead of lactose-abundant milk. However, depending on the person's intolerance, pills may not work. Diet change is the only true solution to lactose intolerance.

Doctors can determine lactose intolerance and its seriousness upon a specific person through a test involving lactose or a hydrogen breath test.

Why Are People Lactose Intolerant?