Lactose intolerance can be a very sneaky allergy. The symptoms can be caused by many other illnesses, and we sometimes forget that something as simple as dairy could be the cause. It can all be a bit confusing, so we’ve put together an easy guide on what lactose intolerance is and how to tell if you are lactose intolerant.
Alright, first up – what is lactose intolerance?
So what causes lactose intolerance? In the lining of your small intestine is a lactase enzyme. This enzyme has the simple job of turning milk sugar into an absorbable compound. However, those who have lactose intolerance do not produce enough of the lactase enzyme, which causes the lactose to move past the small intestine without being properly digested. It then travels to the large intestine where bacteria partially breaks it down into acids and gasses, which then causes some of the lactose intolerance symptoms, such as gas. Any more undigested lactose continues along the intestinal tract which attracts water molecules and causes further symptoms such as diarrhea.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance
Now that you understand the basics of how it works, these are the symptoms to look out for:
- abdominal pain
- abdominal swelling (bloating)
- flatulence (excessive wind)
How to test if you’re lactose intolerant at home
Once you suspect that you have lactose intolerance, you can either go straight to the doctor. Or you can try a couple of things yourself before heading to the doctor.
- Try eliminating dairy from your diet to see if the symptoms persist. Symptoms normally begin 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming dairy. You can then reintroduce dairy back into your diet to see if the symptoms come back.
- Track your symptoms, track all the symptoms you’re experiencing as well as if you’ve had any dairy before the symptoms started and roughly when the dairy was consumed. You can track all your symptoms, along with pictures, notes, times, and dates, with our health app Wanngi, which creates a visual timeline that can help you and your doctor easily see what’s happening with your health.
- Another simple test you can do is to try lactose free milk instead of regular, and see if your symptoms persist.
How your doctor will test to see your lactose intolerance
When you go to the doctor you can explain your symptoms, or show them with Wanngi. If your doctor believes that you have lactose intolerance then they may proceed with various tests, some of which include:
- The Hydrogen Breath Test, when lactose is broken down by bacteria in the large intestine, it creates more hydrogen. This test measures the amount of hydrogen that you breathe out.
- Elimination Diet, which is what we previously discussed in our self administered tests section.
- Blood Glucose Test, which estimates your body’s ability to process lactose by measuring the glucose in your blood.
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