Lactose Malabsorption

Lactose Intolerance

Do you know that almost 68% of the world population has some form of lactose intolerance?

Is Lactose Intolerance and Lactose Malabsorption the same thing?

Lactose malabsorption is the failure of the intestine to digest or absorb the lactose sugar. On the other hand, lactose intolerance is the symptoms that occur as a result of lactose malabsorption.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance can begin soon after eating or drinking lactose containing food or drinks. Lactose consists of two sugar units joined together. An enzyme called lactase is required to split the lactose sugar into two single units for absorption. If you do not have enough lactase enzyme, lactose cannot be broken down and it travels to the large intestine. Here the lactose is broken up by bacteria in your colon. The products produced during this process can cause symptoms such as diarrhoea, gas, bloating, nausea, stomach pain/cramps, or flatulence.

Symptoms may be mild or severe depending on the degree of lactase deficiency and the amount of lactose consumed.

Clinical Based Testing for Lactose Intolerance

Testing for Lactose Malabsorption can be performed with a Lactose breath test.

This is a non-invasive clinical investigation. You will be asked to perform a baseline breath sample by blowing into a sample collection bag. Following this, you are given a lactose testing solution to drink. Breath samples are repeated at regular intervals.

If lactose is not absorbed, it travels to the large intestine. In the large intestine, the bacteria will break up the lactose sugar and gases such as hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide are produced. Hydrogen and methane gas have a small size which means that they pass easily through the wall of the intestine and into the blood stream. When your blood circulates around your body to your lungs, these gases diffuse out of the bloodstream and into your lungs where the gases are then measured in your exhaled breath samples.

The lactose malabsorption test can be done either in one of our clinic locations, or it can be performed at home using a home testing kit. Samples are sent back to GastroLife for analysis








Is ‘Milk Allergy’ the same as Lactose Intolerance?

Milk allergy and lactose intolerance are often mistaken as the same diseases.

Symptoms associated with Lactose malabsorption is termed Lactose intolerance. However, the word ‘Malabsorption’ and ‘Intolerance’ are often used interchangeably. Lactose malabsorption is the inability of a person’s body to digest the milk’s sugars adequately.

On the other hand, milk allergy refers to the adverse response of a person’s body to milk proteins. Milk allergy occurs due to a hyper-active response of your immune system against the proteins present in milk and other dairy products. The immune system mistakes milk proteins as harmful invaders to your body and launches an immune response to neutralise milk proteins.

What are the different types of Lactose Malabsorption?

In new-born babies with lactose malabsorption, it can occur due to a genetic defect causing a deficiency of lactase enzymes. This is a rare condition termed Congenital Lactase Deficiency. In premature babies, Developmental Lactase Deficiency can cause a temporary lactose intolerance as the small intestine is not fully developed in babies born prematurely.

However, even if you had sufficient lactase enzyme in childhood, its function begins to diminish as people age. This is called Primary Lactose Intolerance and is the most common type of lactose intolerance.

 In adults, lactose malabsorption and intolerance can occur as a result of a Secondary Lactase Deficiency. Secondary Lactase Deficiency occurs when injury to the small intestine or certain digestive disease reduces the amount of lactase a person produces. Examples would include coeliac disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.  Because lactase is found most abundantly at the tip of the intestinal villi, it is more vulnerable to intestinal diseases that cause cell damage than other sugars.