Allergies and intolerances

Lactose intolerance in children and babies


The lactose intolerance in children and babies It is the inability to digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. The dietitian and nutritionist Maria Luján Soler, Bachelor of Nutrition with a Master in Technology, Control and Food Health and an expert in Allergies and Food Intolerances, explains how lactose intolerance affects premature babies and children.

What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. It occurs when the small intestine does not produce enough lactase enzyme. Enzymes help the body absorb food. Not having enough lactase is called lactase deficiency. Babies' bodies make this enzyme so that they can digest milk, including breast milk.

How does lactose intolerance affect premature infants, infants, and children?
Premature babies often have an immature digestive system and are sometimes lactose intolerant. The best food for a premature baby is breast milk. Full-term children generally show no signs of this intolerance until they are at least 3 years old. It can manifest itself at various times in life.

Does it affect all children equally?
In whites, it usually begins to affect children older than 5 years; whereas in black people, the condition often occurs as early as two years of age. It is known that there is a higher prevalence of lactose intolerance in people of Asian and African origin, and in Native Americans.

What characteristic symptoms do children and babies with lactose intolerance have?
Symptoms often occur 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking dairy products and are often relieved by not ingesting these products. Large doses of dairy products can cause worse symptoms such as bloating, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, gas or flatulence, nausea, and even slow growth or weight loss.

What should be done when lactose intolerance is detected in children and babies?
When a child has symptoms of lactose intolerance, all dairy products should be removed from the diet for about two weeks. This action can help solve the problem. After that time, milk can be reintroduced into the diet in small amounts. Each day, parents can give the child larger amounts of milk, paying close attention to the return of symptoms.

It is very important to keep the rest of the elements of the diet constant and simple during this period, since there are other foods that could cause similar symptoms. If the child's symptoms improve during the dairy-free diet and return within 4 hours of drinking milk, the diagnosis of lactose intolerance is considered.

What forms of diagnosis are there for lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed by a lactose breath test (hydrogen breath test). The test is done in the office or in the hospital and takes 2 to 3 hours.

What novelties exist today in the treatment of lactose intolerance?
More and more people are thinking about using functional foods in the treatment of food intolerances. Functional foods are those foods that are consumed as part of a normal diet and contain biologically active components that offer health benefits and reduce the risk of disease.

Some examples of functional foods include foods that contain certain minerals, vitamins, fatty acids or dietary fiber, foods to which biologically active substances have been added, such as phytochemicals or other antioxidants, and probiotics, which have live cultures of beneficial microorganisms.

Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus they improve lactose digestion and reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance. This was confirmed in a series of controlled studies in individuals consuming yogurt with live cultures.

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