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Managing Lactose Intolerance In Infants

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Understanding Lactose Intolerance: Symptoms, Causes, and Management 

What is Lactose Intolerance? Lactose intolerance occurs when the body cannot digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. This condition leads to symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea shortly after consuming dairy. 

Distinguishing Between Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergy It’s crucial to differentiate lactose intolerance from a milk allergy. While both can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, lactose intolerance is a digestive issue, not an immune response. Unlike milk allergies, lactose intolerance doesn’t cause life-threatening reactions like anaphylaxis. 

Prevalence and Development Lactose intolerance is common among adults who often lose their lactase enzyme, which is necessary for lactose digestion, as they age. This typically develops after age three and is usually a lifelong condition. 

Types of Lactose Intolerance in Infants In infants, lactose intolerance can be primary or secondary: 

  • Primary Lactose Intolerance: This rare genetic condition means the infant produces no lactase enzymes from birth, requiring a special diet immediately. 
  • Secondary Lactose Intolerance: More common, this occurs when the gut lining is damaged, temporarily reducing lactase production. Causes include: 
  • Gastroenteritis 
  • Food allergies or intolerances 
  • Parasitic infections (e.g., giardiasis) 
  • Coeliac disease 
  • Post-bowel surgery 

Managing Lactose Intolerance Fortunately, secondary lactose intolerance can be temporary, resolving once the underlying gut damage heals. Here’s how lactose intolerance can be managed effectively: 

  1. Diet Adjustments: While the gut heals, it may be necessary to use lactose-free formulas or reduce lactose intake. Breastfeeding can often continue alongside these adjustments. 
  1. Solid Foods: If an infant develops lactose intolerance while on solids, remove high-lactose foods like yogurt and soft cheese. Hard cheeses with low lactose levels may still be tolerated. 
  1. Reintroducing Lactose: Gradually reintroduce lactose-containing foods as the infant’s gut health improves and symptoms resolve. 
  1. Lactase Supplements: For some babies, lactase enzyme supplements can aid in digesting lactose in breast milk or formula, compensating for the body’s reduced production. 

Final Thoughts Dealing with lactose intolerance involves understanding its causes, recognizing symptoms, and implementing dietary strategies to manage discomfort. If you suspect lactose intolerance in your child, consult with a healthcare provider for appropriate diagnosis and treatment plans. This approach ensures that both the physical discomfort and potential nutritional gaps are addressed effectively. 

Educational Reminder This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional for any concerns about lactose intolerance or any other health issues. 

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