Milk products are considered a dietary staple throughout the world. Indeed, dairy is one of the five food groups, and milk and milk derivatives are found in foods you wouldn’t expect.
Artificial sweeteners, bakery goods, bread and even some brands of breath mints contain milk proteins.
Yet experts estimate that a staggering 68% of people suffer from lactose malabsorption. This is much more common in parts of the world where milk isn’t a big part of the usual adult diet, like in South America, Africa and Asia. But in the US 36% of adults still experience symptoms of lactose sensitivity, while in the UK that figure is between 10 and 20%.
Fortunately, the food industry is starting to recognize the importance of catering to people who experience digestive issues as a result of lactose, and more lactose-free products are on the market than ever before – but how do you work out that milk and dairy products are responsible for your stomach woes?
In this blog, we’re going to look at how to diagnose and how to test for lactose intolerance.
What is lactose?
Lactose is a type of natural sugar found primarily in milk and dairy products.
It’s formed when two other sugars, glucose and galactose, combine. In order to digest lactose, your body creates an enzyme called lactase, which breaks lactose back down into glucose and galactose. However, if your body doesn’t produce enough of this enzyme you’ll experience symptoms of lactose intolerance.
There are four main types of lactase deficiency:
- Primary lactase deficiency is the most common, and is simply a result of the amount of lactase in your bowel reducing as you get older. This reduction typically starts from just two or three months old.
- Secondary lactase deficiency is the result of damage to your bowel lining. This can be caused by severe gastroenteritis or coeliac disease, but it’s usually only temporary.
- Congenital lactase deficiency is when a baby is born with little or no lactase, and it’s a very serious condition. Babies with congenital lactase deficiency won’t be able to put on weight and will have diarrhoea. Fortunately, this type of lactase deficiency is very rare.
- Developmental lactase deficiency presents itself in babies born prematurely, but improves over time.
Note that in this post we’re looking at how to diagnose and test for lactose intolerance in adults. If you suspect your baby is suffering from lactose deficiency you should visit your doctor.
How to diagnose a lactose intolerance
The first thing you need to do in order to diagnose a lactose intolerance is recognize the symptoms. The most common of these include:
- Feeling bloated
- Pain, cramps or rumbling in your stomach
- Passing wind
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Mouth ulcers
Although for some people these symptoms will present themselves within minutes of consuming something that contains lactose, for others it can take up to 12 hours. This can make it hard to identify the exact cause if you are experiencing any of the above issues. What’s more, the symptoms will vary in severity depending on how much lactose you’ve had and your specific tolerance level.
To help with the diagnosis of lactose intolerance, start keeping a diary of what you eat and drink, and what symptoms you experience in the following hours. This will highlight links between different foods and your symptoms.
There are other conditions that can cause very similar symptoms, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis and coeliac disease (an intolerance to gluten), so if you are experiencing any of the above frequently, it’s important that you take a lactose intolerance test.
How Check My Body Health can help you test for lactose intolerance
Despite lactose intolerance – and food sensitivity in general – being so common, millions of people around the world continue to suffer from discomfort and pain. Symptoms are misinterpreted and, ultimately, result in further problems that can prove to be debilitating.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to alleviate the condition, and if you suspect you have a sensitivity to lactose the next step is to get tested.
Our Complete Sensitivity Hair Test can help to identify lactose intolerance, as well as a wide range of other sensitivities to both food and non-food products, including pollen, plants and materials.
We use bioresonance therapy to test for food sensitivity, and we are proud to offer one of the most comprehensive tests of this kind. We’ll analyze a hair sample and come back to you within 3-5 days with your results. You can take a look at a sample Essentials Sensitivity report here.
Treatment for lactose intolerance
Unfortunately, there is no cure for primary lactose deficiency, but if your test results show that you’re suffering from this intolerance, there are steps you can take to mitigate the symptoms.
Ultimately, this comes down to making a change to your diet, and for most people cutting down or avoiding products that contain lactose will be enough to manage the symptoms.
Because people have different levels of tolerance, start by eliminating all lactose from your diet and reintroduce foods slowly. Again, keep track of this with a food diary. This will help you to work out where your tolerance level is.
However, eliminating or reducing the amount of lactose in your diet isn’t without its own problems. Lactose contains important vitamins and minerals so it’s important to make sure you’re replacing these with lactose-free foods or supplements.
Some more tips for managing a lactose intolerance
- Love cheese? Some hard cheeses – including cheddar, edam and parmesan – only contain a small amount of lactose, so you might find you can eat these without experiencing symptoms. Make sure you introduce these cheeses to your diet gradually and keep track of any changes in your food diary.
- Yoghurt is another product that people who suffer from lactose intolerance can often continue to enjoy. This is because yoghurt contains high levels of the lactase enzyme. Greek yoghurt is even better as it contains lower levels of lactose.
- You can buy lactase supplements which may help your body to digest lactose. However, taking a supplement doesn’t mean you should quickly reintroduce high levels of dairy products back into your diet.
- Your digestive system may be able to tolerate milk easier if you consume it with a meal rather than on its own.
A lactose intolerance can be mild or cause the sufferer genuine distress on a daily basis, but regardless of the severity of your symptoms, there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, you won’t be able to solve the problem if you don’t know what’s causing it in the first place.
Purchase your Complete Sensitivity Test today and take the first step towards a happier and healthier gut.
Written by Bev Walton, BSc Nutritional Science
I achieved a First-Class Honours degree in BSc Nutritional Science, Nutrition Sciences from the University of Reading and now have over 35 years experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for magazines and websites as well as ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I’m also a proud member of the Guild of Food writers.