Lactose is a sugar that is present in cow's milk and other dairy products. For most people, lactose is broken down with the help of an enzyme called lactase, and while most animals stop producing lactase when they are weaned, because we continue to drink milk throughout our lives, our bodies continue to produce lactase. People who suffer from lactose intolerance don't produce enough lactase to deal with the lactose. The undigested lactose then begins to be broken down by the bacteria in the gut which starts a fermentation process that can produce excessive wind and abdominal pain.
Lactose intolerance is quite common in people from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and some Mediterranean countries, as well as Australian Aborigines, but is uncommon is Caucasians (about 5% in Australia). As a result many Caucasian babies are incorrectly diagnosed with lactose intolerance.
It is much more common for your baby to get secondary lactose intolerance, which is a temporary condition that occurs as a result of gastroenteritis, when the lining of the gut is damaged. This form of lactose intolerance will improve after a couple of weeks.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance include:
- excessive wind
- abdominal pain
- abdominal swelling
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