Lactose is the only sugar contained in milk, and is a disaccharide, that is a sugar composed respectively of 2 different monosaccharides (1 molecule of glucose linked to a molecule of galactose). When we drink milk or eat cheese, the lactose contained and ingested must be digested in the intestine before it can be absorbed and used as an energy source; this function is performed by an enzyme of the hydrolase type (which breaks down lactose with water into glucose plus galactose) called lactase and produced by bacteria of the intestinal flora in the cells of the small intestine.
This enzyme is usually found only in young mammals in northern Europe where the diet is very rich in dairy products and derivatives and the population has developed the ability to produce the enzyme even in adulthood; on the other hand, in Eastern peoples where milk products are not often consumed after weaning, most adults no longer synthesize the enzyme or synthesize it in insufficient quantities and consequently cannot digest the food that they can cause problems with abdominal bloating or intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is precisely the intestinal problem linked to the ingestion of milk or the intake of dairy products.
The main symptoms are: gas distension, abdominal bloating and diarrhea, due to the colon bacteria that ferment lactose into gas and organic acids.
The diagnosis can be made through a non-invasive test called a lactose breath test which is carried out by blowing into a tube connected to a device that evaluates the ability of the intestine to digest milk, the examination is very simple and involves the taking a predetermined dose of a certain sugar (in this case 20 grams of lactose, i.e. 400-500 ml of milk) and then analyzing the gases exhaled by the patient after a certain period of time, looking for the peak of hydrogen in the exhaled air, which indicates an intestinal fermentation of the sugar (in this case precisely the lactose) that has not been absorbed by the intestine, or rather by the intestinal flora of the colon.
Since milk and dairy products are the primary source of calcium, lactose intolerant people must try to compensate with other foods rich in this mineral , in order to avoid deficiency problems in later life, such as osteoporosis . Alternative foods can be some types of cheeses aged at least 6 months, since thanks to aging these products lose most of the lactose (among these the best is Parmesan). Another way to replace milk is to drink 1 liter of calcium-rich water, which is equivalent to two pots of yogurt as a concentration of the mineral.
To solve the problem, you must therefore choose a replacement diet or supplement calcium with some tablet product, and completely remove lactose-rich foods from your diet.
But what if you wanted to eat a nice spoon dessert like a cream? It is not necessary to give it up for life, just take a product containing lactase before the offending meal , precisely the enzyme that we are no longer able to produce, and that’s it (1 capsule can break down up to 100 cc of lactose).
But will I have this problem for life? It is not certain, 1 month after the complete elimination of milk and derivatives from the daily diet, you can try to reintroduce them in small doses and if no symptoms occur, you can gradually increase the consumption from week to week, while always continuing to do be very careful to avoid excesses.