What Does it Mean to Be Lactose Intolerant?
Lactose is the sugar that’s found in milk and most other dairy products. For you to be able to digest that sugar properly, your body makes an enzyme called lactase. When you're lactose intolerant, your body doesn’t manufacture enough lactase to digest lactose well.
Lactose Intolerance Symptoms
Lactose intolerance can result in gas, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea. You may also experience stomach rumbling, nausea, or vomiting. Some people who are lactose intolerant feel these symptoms right away, but it can take up to two hours to start to experience. When lactose intolerant symptoms interfere with your daily life, it’s best to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Simply avoiding products that contain lactose can negatively impact your health, as you can develop deficiencies in calcium and other needed nutrients.
Lactose Intolerance Testing
Lactose tolerance test: This test measures your body’s response to drinking a lactose-rich liquid. After about two hours, your doctor will draw blood that is then analyzed to determine the glucose levels in your bloodstream. When your glucose level stays the same, it signals that your body isn't digesting and absorbing the lactose you’ve consumed.
Hydrogen breath test: This test analyzes hydrogen levels in your exhaled breaths. Normally, no hydrogen is in the breath, but undigested lactose causes various gases (including hydrogen) to form from bacteria in the colon. This hydrogen travels from the intestines, into the bloodstream, and goes into the lungs where it’s exhaled. In the test, you drink a high lactose beverage and your breath is tested. If you have hydrogen in your breath, it means you are not properly digesting the lactose.
Stool acidity test: A stool acidity test is available for children. The test analyzes the level of stool acidity or pH, which would be caused by bacteria from lactose fermentation in the colon.
Managing Lactose Intolerance
While you can’t change how your body reacts to lactose, you can manage your diet to cut down or eliminate painful and uncomfortable symptoms without compromising the nutrition your body needs to stay healthy. Consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian who can help you plan a healthy diet that keeps you feeling good.
Find Out More About Lactose Intolerance
The physicians and dieticians at Gotham Gastroenterology offer comprehensive and highly specialized care for anyone suffering from lactose intolerance. Contact us for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of lactose intolerance symptoms today.