Definition of lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is characterized by digestive problems as a result of indigestion of lactose (main milk sugar) from milk and its derivatives (yogurt, cheese, etc.).

An enzyme in the body (lactase) transforms the lactose in dairy products, in order to make it absorbable and digestible. A lactase deficiency then leads to a reduction in the body's ability to digest lactose. The latter ferments, causing the production of fatty acids and gas. Intestinal transit is therefore accelerated and digestive symptoms appear (diarrhea, gas, pain, bloating, etc.).

The prevalence (number of people with lactose intolerance) in France is between 30% and 50% of adults.

A test for identifying and evaluating the level of lactose intolerance is known, available and allows the diet to be adapted accordingly.

The causes of lactose intolerance

The origins of lactose intolerance depend on the age of the individual.

Indeed, in infants, lactose intolerance results in a generalized lactase deficiency. This is a rare disease called: congenital lactase deficiency.

In children, this intolerance can be the result and/or a side effect of gastroenteritis, for example.

You should know that the actions of lactase decrease over time. As a result, lactose intolerance is increasingly present with advancing age. Adults therefore form a category of people more prone to the development of lactose intolerance.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

The clinical signs and symptoms associated with lactose intolerance are the consequence of a defined lactase enzyme activity. These result in intestinal and digestive symptoms such as:

  • intestinal pain
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • bloating
  • gases

These symptoms can be more or less important depending on the individual, the amount of lactose ingested and the level of intolerance.

 Risk factors for lactose intolerance

Risk factors for lactose intolerance may be the presence of an underlying gastrointestinal disease in children or adults. Or a congenital lactase deficiency in infants.

 How to treat lactose intolerance?

The first step in the treatment of lactose intolerance is a diet depleted of dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurts, etc.).

A lactose intolerance test is available to assess the level of intolerance. Based on this assessment, the diet is adapted accordingly.

If changes in dietary habits are not sufficient to optimally manage lactose intolerance, treatment in the form of lactase capsules/tablets is possible.

Intestinal pathologies can also be the source of the development of lactose intolerance (giardiasis, Crohn's disease, etc.).