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Update on lactose malabsorption and intolerance: pathogenesis, diagnosis and clinical management

Benjamin Misselwitz, Matthias Butter, Kristin Verbeke, Mark R Fox
Gut 2019 August 19
31427404
Lactose is the main source of calories in milk, an essential nutriedigestion, patients with visceral hypersensitivity nt in infancy and a key part of the diet in populations that maintain the ability to digest this disaccharide in adulthood. Lactase deficiency (LD) is the failure to express the enzyme that hydrolyses lactose into galactose and glucose in the small intestine. The genetic mechanism of lactase persistence in adult Caucasians is mediated by a single C→T nucleotide polymorphism at the LCTbo -13'910 locus on chromosome-2. Lactose malabsorption (LM) refers to any cause of failure to digest and/or absorb lactose in the small intestine. This includes primary genetic and also secondary LD due to infection or other conditions that affect the mucosal integrity of the small bowel. Lactose intolerance (LI) is defined as the onset of abdominal symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhoea after lactose ingestion by an individual with LM. The likelihood of LI depends on the lactose dose, lactase expression and the intestinal microbiome. Independent of lactose digestion, patients with visceral hypersensitivity associated with anxiety or the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are at increased risk of the condition. Diagnostic investigations available to diagnose LM and LI include genetic, endoscopic and physiological tests. The association between self-reported LI, objective findings and clinical outcome of dietary intervention is variable. Treatment of LI can include low-lactose diet, lactase supplementation and, potentially, colonic adaptation by prebiotics. The clinical outcome of these treatments is modest, because lactose is just one of a number of poorly absorbed carbohydrates which can cause symptoms by similar mechanisms.

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