Lactose intolerance is caused when our body is unable to produce enough lactase which is actually an enzyme which helps in digestion of lactose, a sugar found in both cow’s milk and breast milk along with other dairy products. Lactose helps in absorption of iron and calcium and is integral to the healthy growth and development of the child.
The lactose in milk is broken down into galactose and glucose by lactase which is produced by the small intestine. Inability of lactase production results in the lactose in fermentation and indigestion in babies. Before we can understand the signs of lactose intolerance in babies let us find out about what causes it in the first place.
What Causes Lactose Intolerance in Babies
In babies, lactose intolerance can be caused by two factors which are categorized as primary and secondary. The primary cause of lactose intolerance is genetics and the baby can inherit the condition from parents. Since the baby is unable to digest lactose from birth he or she would most likely suffer from severe diarrhea and would be unable to tolerate even breast milk. In such a case a special lactose free infant formula has to be provided to relieve the child from the lactose intolerance symptoms.
The secondary factor for lactose intolerance is an injury or damage to the intestines or gut which in turn impedes the production of lactase. Celia disease, Crohn’s disease, gastroenteritis and parasitic stomach infections can lead to the secondary lactose intolerance in infants.
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Babies
The absence of lactase means the lactose cannot be digested by the body which in turn remains in the intestines and ferments. This causes immense amount of gas and pain in the abdomen. You can find the baby’s abdomen bloated. The child will experience nausea and diarrhea. Crankiness, not feeding properly from breasts, inability to gain weight, crying and twitching after consumption of milk are some other signs of lactose intolerance in babies.
Unfortunately understanding and diagnosing the signs of this problem is not very easy as lactose intolerance can easily mimic the symptoms of cow protein allergy which is a reaction of the immune system to the milk proteins or lactose overload which is a problem caused by excess consumption of milk.
To diagnose the condition the doctor may have to carry out a lactose intolerance test which is done by ingestion of a beverage loaded with lactose. If the baby’s body is unable to break down the lactose to glucose and galactose then a simple blood test will be able to ascertain the facts. In addition to this a stool acidity test, an elimination diet and a hydrogen breath test may be carried out to check the condition.
If the baby is diagnosed with this problem then the doctor may recommend a lactose free or soy milk formula. It is important to consult the doctor about the foods that are good and the foods to watch out for. It is important to remain vigilant and watch out for the symptoms that may indicate lactose intolerance in babies. This is the only way of helping your child deal with the problem.