No - even the Romans knew that people with certain conditions reacted to milk consumption. As early as the year 400 BC, Hippocrates wrote of digestive pain after drinking milk.
Lactose was first identified in milk in the 17th century and by the mid-19th century it was recognised as a cause of certain symptoms. More than 2300 years after Hippocrates' first reports, lactose intolerance finally started to be diagnosed and treated as an illness around 50 years ago.
Lactose is present in breastmilk and represents the most important source of carbohydrates for infants. Lactose is a disaccharide, and because it is too large for the intestinal wall, it is broken down into glucose and galactose by the enzyme lactase. In the eighth week of pregnancy, lactase starts to form in the small intestine of the embryo, reaching its peak at the time of birth. Lactase activity then decreases continuously over the first six months of a child's life. There are, however, geographical differences in lactase production among different groups of people, over the course of life.
Some populations continue to produce the enzyme lactase throughout their entire lives and remain tolerant to lactose. In other groups, lactase production falls after breastfeeding ends. Asian populations experience a 80-90% decrease in lactase activity within 3-4 years after weaning, for example. In North-Europeans, the drop in lactase activity may not occur until after the age of 20.
There are three different types of lactose intolerance: congenital, primary and secondary. Congenital lactose intolerance is caused by a genetic defect. The enzyme lactase is either produced in insufficient amounts or completely absent. This form of lactose intolerance appears at birth, but is very rare.
Primary lactase deficiency is the result of the normal ageing process. This means that lactose tolerance steadily decreases after the child stops breastfeeding. This phenomenon occurs in around 70-90% of the world population.
Secondary lactose intolerance is acquired. The enzyme lactase can no longer be produced due to damage to the epithelial lining of the small intestine. Damage to the epithelium can be caused by infectious diseases, Coeliac disease, chronic inflammatory diseases sich as Crohn's disease, long-term alcohol abuse or certain medications.
After being ingested with food, lactose reaches the stomach and then the small intestine. In the small intestine the enzyme lactase is formed, which splits lactose into d-glucose and d-galactose. These monosaccharides, or simple sugars, are absorbed by the epithelial cells in the intestine via a passive mechanism and released into the bloodstream. If the enzyme is not present, due to primary or secondary lactose intolerance, the lactose remains undivided as it passes into the large intestine. Lactose is then broken down by bacteria present in the large intestine. This process produces gases, short-chain fatty acids and other by-products. These lead to symptoms such as gas, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and bloating.
In cases of lactose intolerance, it is a good idea to build up and strengthen the gut flora. Bacteria in our gut communicate with the intestinal wall and the immune system, supporting the production of lactase. You can boost your gut flora with probiotic products and a fibre rich diet. The product Lactobact® LACTASE+PRO isparticularly suitable for this purpose. Alongside 10,000 FCC units of lactase, it also contains 5 select probiotic bacteria cultures to restore a healthy gut flora.
The product Lactobact® LACTASE+PRO therefore offers dual support for lactose intolerance. First of all, the lactase ensures that the consumed lactose is digested immediately, and at the same time the probiotic bacteria build up the gut flora, reactivating communication with the intestinal mucosa.
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