When your body lacks the lactase enzyme, the milk is not broken down and arrives in the large intestine as larger molecules. Bacteria in the large intestine attack the sugar & large amounts of gas are released as breakdown products. the sugar itself also causes diarrhoea.
Typical symptoms that you may have experienced after having dairy products include:
- bloating/distension of the abdomen
- sometimes: headaches & vomiting – less common
Small quantities of lactose may cause no symptoms, but if you are very sensitive, you may experience any of these symptoms with any intake of dairy or dairy-containing products.
It is often better to use milk products that have been processed and the lactose altered (Eg yoghurt), as these alterations may have changed the lactose sufficiently for it to be absorbed.
It is not common for people to be so intolerant that they cannot tolerate any milk. You will have to establish the amounts that you can tolerate without any of the side effects occurring.
It is recommended that if you are not taking any milk products you should consider using a calcium supplement that will provide 500-1000mg of calcium/day. This is especially important in post-menopausal women who are more susceptible to OSTEOPOROSIS.
Adults in general do not grow out of being lactose intolerant. You may therefore have to make some permanent changes in your eating habits. Although lactose causes discomfort, ingesting it is unlikely to cause any long lasting ill effect on your health.