The symptoms of lactose intolerance and parasites can be difficult to distinguish at times. The presence of parasites can lead to lactose intolerance as well.
Lactose Intolerance caused by Parasites
Parasites such as Giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis and others that infect the proximal end of the small intestine can injure the epithelial cells and lead to lactose malabsorption.
Lactose intolerance due to the presence of parasites is known as secondary lactase deficiency. If no infectious etiology is found, and secondary lactase deficiency is suspected diagnostic evaluation should be geared toward the presence of parasites.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Lactose Intolerance versus Parasites
Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal distention, abdominal cramping, flatulence and diarrhea. These symptoms are directly related to the amount of lactose ingested.
A clinical history can often reveal a relationship between the symptoms and lactose ingestion. When the clinical history indicates the possibility of lactose intolerance usually a lactose free diet is prescribed to eliminate all sources of lactose in the diet. After about a 2 week strict lactose free diet if the symptoms resolve, lactose is reintroduced into the diet to determine if the symptoms return. This can diagnose lactose intolerance.
Some cases of lactose intolerance are not as symptomatic and the most helpful, non invasive test is the hydrogen breath test to diagnose malabsorption of lactose. Symptoms of intestinal parasites include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, anal itching, flatulence, and mucous or blood in the stool. Intestinal parasites are diagnosed by examination of stool samples for the presence of the parasite. Often this requires 3 separate samples on different days.
Treatment of Lactose Intolerance and Parasites
Treatment of Lactose Intolerance is achieved by eliminating lactose from the diet. It may be necessary to supplement nutrients necessary to the body that we get from lactose. Your doctor can help develop a plan to remove lactose and replace nutrients to avoid poor nutrition.
The treatment of lactose intolerance caused by parasites or secondary lactase deficiency or malabsorption that is caused by a secondary underlying condition such as parasites involves treating the underlying condition. Once the cause of the problem is resolved, you can often resume lactose in the diet.
Intestinal parasites can be treated with medications that can be prescribed by your physician. It is important to take the entire course of the medication prescribed and to be retested after the medication is complete to determine that all the parasites have been eliminated.