Lactose Intolerance


Lactose Intolerance Diagnosis …The symptoms of lactose intolerance can be mild to severe, which depends on how much lactose your body makes. They begin, usually, 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking milk products. The symptoms include:

• Gas

• Bloating

• Cramps or abdominal pain

• Gurgling or rumbling in your “belly”

• Loose stools or diarrhea

• Nausea

• Vomiting

Many people suspect they may have lactose intolerance. The best way is to avoid milk products to see if symptoms go away. You can then try adding small amounts back into your diet to see if the symptoms reappear. The best evidence is if every time you eat dairy products you feel sick.

It’s common to develop lactose intolerance as you get older. You may never had any problems when you were young but then suddenly you are lactose intolerant. Primary Adult Lactase Deficiency refers to the normal condition for most people in whom lactase production has practically ceased. If you think you are lactose intolerant talk to your doctor to rule out any other problem.

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Many people self-diagnose by eliminating milk and milk products from their diet. The problem with this self-test is that there are so many processed foods that contain milk it’s difficult to totally eliminate all lactose. Another problem is that people don’t test long enough. Also, people could possibly experience a placebo effect.

An easier self-test would be to use a milk challenge. The person fasts overnight and then drinks a glass of non-fat milk in the morning. After 3 to 5 hours of not eating or drinking anything further, the person should develop symptoms, if they are lactose intolerant. Non-fat milk is consumed, because the fat in milk could cause symptoms. This test isn’t without problems. If the person has a milk allergy, although rare, it could cause symptoms. Milk allergy is an allergy to milk proteins. Also, if a person normally doesn’t consume a lot of milk, then a full glass of milk could cause symptoms.

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How will your doctor diagnosis lactose intolerance? He or she usually can tell by asking questions about your symptoms. Sometimes a doctor may order a hydrogen breath test, a stool acidity test, or a blood test to confirm his diagnosis. These tests will help determine whether you are digesting lactose normally. This is because other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome can have the same symptoms so it’s hard to diagnose by symptoms alone.

The most common tests are:

The Lactose Tolerance Test- This test involves fasting or not eating before the test and then drinking a liquid containing lactose. Several blood samples are taken over a 2-hour period to measure blood glucose or blood sugar level. These samples will measure how well the body is able to digest lactose.Normally, when lactose reaches the digestive system, the enzyme lactase breaks it down into glucose and galactose. The liver then changes the galactose into glucose, which enters the bloodstream and raises the blood’s glucose level. If, however, lactose is incompletely broken down, the blood glucose level doesn’t rise and a diagnosis of lactose intolerance is confirmed.This test can produce false positives.

The Hydrogen Breath Test- This test measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath. Very little hydrogen is normally detectable in your breath. However, undigested lactose in the colon is fermented by bacteria and produces various gases, which includes hydrogen. The hydrogen is absorbed from the intestines, carried through the bloodstream to the lungs, and ultimately exhaled. In this test, you drink a lactose-loaded beverage and your breath is analyzed at regular intervals. Elevated levels of hydrogen and/or methane in your breath indicate improper digestion of lactose. Certain foods, medications, and cigarettes can affect the accuracy of the test and you should avoid them before taking the test. You should check with your doctor to make sure you aren’t taking medications that might interfere with your test results.

The lactose tolerance and hydrogen breath tests should not be given to infants younger than 6 months of age, because a large load of lactose can be dangerous to infants. They are more likely to develop diarrhea and become dehydrated.

Problems with the breath test is that it is long and boring and that the amount of lactose can play a role in the outcome of the test. If there is a spread of bacteria from the colon into the small intestine this could cause a false result. Lastly, conditions that speed up the movement of lactose through the small intestine could produce a misdiagnosis.

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Stool Acidity Test - This test is safe to be used for testing infants and young children and measures the amount of acid in their stool. Undigested lactose fermented by bacteria in their colon creates lactic acid and other fatty acids that can be detected in a stool sample. Glucose may also be present in the stool sample, a result of unabsorbed lactose in their colon.

Intestinal Biopsy - The biopsy is obtained by endoscopy or by special capsules, which are passed through the mouth or nose and into the small intestine. Lactase levels are then analyzed. The biopsy isn’t frequently used, because specialized procedures, which aren’t always available, are required.


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The information on is not offered for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease or disorder nor have any statements herein been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We strongly encourage you to discuss topics of concern with your health care provider.

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