Lactose intolerance is caused by the digestive system's inability to produce lactase, a digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose. Lactase is produced in the small intestine. When lactase is not produced during the digestion of dairy products, the result is often digestive discomfort. Gas, intestinal cramping, loose stools and bloating are all common symptoms of lactose intolerance. Undigested lactose stagnates in the intestines and causes water retention. Eventually, the large molecules of lactose break down in the colon, causing cramping, diarrhea and gas. Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed by a physician or through an elimination diet.
Avoid all foods containing dairy for five days. If dairy is the cause of digestive disturbances, the symptoms should improve significantly during the dairy elimination diet, according to the University of Kentucky. However, if the symptoms continue, a physician should be consulted as it could be a sign of a more serious condition.
Discuss clinical lactose intolerance tests with your doctor. Two tests, the hydrogen breath test and the lactose tolerance test, are commonly given to determine lactose tolerance.
Fast before taking the lactose tolerance test. Drink a lactose-containing beverage at the doctor's office. Over the following two hours, give blood samples, which measure your body's ability to digest lactose.
Consume a concentrated lactose beverage for the hydrogen breath test at the doctor's office. Breathe into an instrument that measures hydrogen. High amounts of hydrogen indicate poor lactose digestion, according to The Ohio State University Medical Center.
Tips & Warnings
- Lactose intolerance is extremely common in people with Asian, African or Native American heritage.
- Lactose intolerance can be hereditary, or it might occur from intestinal injury because of surgery, exposure to radiation or illness.
- Symptoms of lactose intolerance occur between 30 minutes and two hours from the time of consumption, according to the Ohio State University Medical Center.
- Severity of lactose intolerance varies from person to person.
- Enzyme replacement products help digest lactose by providing lactase. These products might enable some people with lactose intolerance to enjoy dairy again.
- Children who might be lactose intolerant should be diagnosed and treated by a physician.
- Elimination diets are not appropriate for children, according to Children's Hospital Boston.
- Completely avoiding dairy could result in a calcium and vitamin D deficiency. Supplementation of these essential nutrients might be required.
- Photo Credit got milk image by Leticia Wilson from Fotolia.com
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