Lactose - Definition

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Lactose is a carbohydrate present in milk and dairy products. It is digested with the lactase enzyme and broken down by a glucose molecule and a galactose molecule, absorbable by the body. When lactase is absent or is not produced in sufficient quantity, lactose can cause intestinal disorders: this is lactose intolerance, a very common condition, but not dangerous. It may be present at birth with a congenital deficiency (this is a lactase deficiency) or appear in childhood or adulthood. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, sometimes even weight loss. Eliminating or decreasing dairy products for adults or lactase supplements are sometimes used. In children, dairy products are essential for the proper growth of the organism, and lactose free products enable this growth.