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Lactose Intolerance: Symptoms, Diagnosis, And How To Manage This Condition

What is lactose intolerance?

Having lactose intolerance means you can’t properly digest lactose, a type of natural sugar found in milk and milk products. If you are lactose-intolerant, your small intestine doesn’t produce a sufficient amount of lactase, an enzyme that helps your body digest lactose. When undigested lactose gets to the colon, it can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms.

Lactose intolerance is not the same as an allergy to milk. It is a digestive disorder, and most people who have it can still eat or drink some milk and products made from milk. In people who are allergic to milk, milk proteins trigger an immune response that manifests in symptoms, such as rash, wheezing, and itching, or even anaphylaxis (in severe cases).

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

Symptoms of lactose intolerance vary in severity depending on the amount of lactase your body produces. Symptoms usually start 30 minutes to 2 hours after you ingest lactose. They include:

- flatulence;

- abdominal bloating;

- stomach rumbling;

- nausea;

- diarrhea;

- abdominal pain or cramps.

Some people with lactose intolerance can consume moderate amounts of milk and dairy products and feel fine, while others can’t even add a little milk or cream to their coffee.

READ ALSO: The Most Common Causes Of Stomach Spasms, And When One Should See A Doctor If Has Them

How is lactose intolerance diagnosed?

If you suspect that you may have lactose intolerance, try temporarily removing milk and dairy products from your diet to see if your symptoms improve.

Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your personal and family history, your description of symptoms, a physical exam, and medical tests (hydrogen breath test and/or stool acidity test).

If you’re diagnosed with lactose intolerance, a dietitian can help you create a new meal plan.

How is lactose intolerance treated?

People with lactose intolerance have to limit the amount of milk and dairy products they consume to prevent symptoms. People who develop severe symptoms after ingesting a small amount of lactose may have to avoid lactose altogether and carefully study food labels to make sure non-dairy foods they intend to eat don’t contain lactose.

Lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk and dairy products may be a fitting alternative. You can try drinking soy, almond, or coconut milk instead of animal milk. Lactase tablets or drops can be used when eating products that contain lactose, but they are not recommended for some groups of people, including young children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Because milk and milk products are a major source of calcium and vitamin D, you’ll have to eat more of other foods that contain these important nutrients. Also, ask your doctor whether you need calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Foods rich in vitamin D include salmon, tuna, eggs, and liver. Fortified foods, such as cereals, are also available.

Good sources of calcium include fish (e.g. sardines and salmon), spinach, rhubarb, broccoli, almonds, and fortified foods, such as juices, cereals, and soy products.

Sources: NIDDK, NHS UK, WebMD

READ ALSO: Celiac Disease And Gluten-Free Diet: Questions And Answers


This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended to provide medical advice. Fabiosa doesn’t take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this post. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader should consult with their physician or other health care provider.

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