Hyderabad: Over diagnosis of lactose intolerance in babies is found despite the fact that it is colic pains and loose stools. Experts stated that often people wrongly attribute common symptoms like vomiting and pain in the abdomen in infants as lactose intolerance.
Dr Vijayanand Jamalpuri, a senior paediatrician, said, “Unfortunately, lactose intolerance is over diagnosed. In general, babies tolerate mothers’ milk well. In cases of acute diarrhoeal illness it is found that the top layer of the gut is shed off and the enzymes lost. When this happens babies don’t digest the milk and develop symptoms and it is found that after hydration the symptoms resolve on their own.”
Lactose is the sugar in the milk and it requires the enzyme lactase to digest it. If there is insufficient amount of lactase it results in bloated tummy, loose and frequent motions, tummy pain and also severe rashes in the nappy area.
When this is continuous it is lactose intolerance and in full-term babies this situation is not common.
A senior paediatrician, on condition of anonymity, said, “There is often confusion between lactose intolerance and milk allergies, forcing mothers to opt for formula milk which is not required. Young mothers must not give up breast-feeding as it is the best food for young infants.”
But lactose intolerance incidences are high in premature babies and this is called developmental lactose intolerance. The lactase is developed usually after 34 weeks of pregnancy. If the child is born before 34 weeks it may result in intolerance. There are nearly 3.5 million premature babies born in India every year.
Dr S. Kapasi, a senior paediatrician, added, “Lactose intolerance is not only in infants but also in older children where it is found to cause stomach cramps and loose stools after hours of milk consumption. These are often taken in the category of milk allergies and the child has to opt for other sources of food to get the calcium. This kind of intolerance develops at later stages due to unhealthy food habits. Often, it is found that after a gap of a few months or years, the gut heals on its own.”