Science and Environment

One in two Pinoys suffer from lactose intolerance

Stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating and gas or kabag are symptoms shared by many diseases. This commonality often obscures a little known reality – lactose intolerance affects a sizeable number of Filipinos.

Lactose, the predominant sugar of milk, is found in all dairy products. The lactose-intolerant individual is unable to digest significant amounts of lactose. This inability results from a shortage of the enzyme lactase, which is normally produced by the cells that line the small intestine. Lactase breaks down milk sugar into simpler forms that can then be absorbed into the bloodstream.

When there is not enough lactase to digest the amount of lactose consumed, the results can be very distressing. Common symptoms include nausea, cramps, bloating, gas and diarrhea, which begin about 30 minutes to two hours after eating dairy food or drinking milk.

Lactose intolerance is not the same thing as milk allergy. People with milk allergies generally have trouble digesting milk proteins (as opposed to milk sugar). Some symptoms of milk allergy are respiratory problems and rashes.

Certain ethnic and racial populations are more widely affected than others. Lactose intolerance affects about 70 percent of individuals worldwide, most of whom are of African and Asian descent.

In the Philippines, studies have shown that up to 50 percent of Filipinos are lactose-intolerant. Generally, if one parent is lactose-intolerant, there is 60-percent possibility their children will be as well. If both parents are lactose-intolerant, the condition becomes 100 percent for their children.

Besides heredity, other causes of lactose intolerance are well-known. For instance, certain digestive diseases and injuries to the small intestine can reduce the amount of enzymes produced. This condition is known as secondary lactase deficiency. Although the prevalence is temporary (one to two months), lactose intolerance among infants after acute or chronic gastroenteritis is about 10 percent.

In rare cases, children are born without the ability to produce lactase, a condition known as congenital lactase deficiency. For most people though, lactase deficiency is a condition that develops naturally over time.

After about the age of 2, the body begins to produce less lactase. Known as late onset lactose intolerance, this condition is a common cause of stomach discomfort in children and adolescents.

Filipino studies show that the incidence of lactose intolerance increases with age: lactase deficiency increases from 23 percent in 1-2-year-old children, 68 percent in those aged 3-4, to almost 86 percent in 9-10-year-olds.

Fortunately, lactose intolerance is relatively easy to treat. Although no treatment exists to improve the body’s ability to produce lactase, symptoms can be controlled through diet.

Mead Johnson’s lactose-free milk formulas are the innovative solutions to the nutrition needs of lactose-intolerant children. These formulations have glucose polymers for easier digestion, and all the vitamins and minerals of regular formulas, plus DHA, an important brain-building ingredient.

Even though lactose intolerance is widespread, it need not pose a serious threat to good health. People who have trouble digesting lactose can learn which dairy products and other foods they can eat without discomfort and which ones they should avoid. A carefully chosen diet is the key to reducing symptoms and protecting future health.

vuukle comment











  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with