Lactose Intolerance – Symptoms

Bloating can be a symptom of lactose intolerance although there are usually additional symptoms which may not always be present with other types of food intolerance. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain or cramps in the abdomen
  • Gurgling or rumbling sounds in the abdomen
  • Excess gas / wind
  • Loose stools or dirrhea
  • Sometimes the stools are foamy
  • Vomiting

The symptoms of lactose intolerance may be mild or severe and depends on how much lactase your body makes. The symptoms usually appear within 2 hours of consuming milk or milk products.

Lactose Intolerance – Diagnosis

The two most common tests your doctor may suggest are:

  • Hydrogen breath test. This is a simple test which involves drinking a liquid containing lactose and then breathing into a machine several times over a period of a couple of hours. The hydrogen levels in your breath are measured, and if excessively high will indicate lactose intolerance. You will need to abstain from certain foods, medicines and cigarettes for a specified period before the test is carried out.
  • Lactose tolerance test. You may additionally be offered a blood test. This is transported out after drinking a liquid containing lactose. Your blood will be tested every 30 minutes over a 2 hour period. Again you will be expected to abstain from certain foods, medicines and cigarettes for a specified period before the test is carried out.

Lactose Intolerance – Treatment

If you are confirmed to be lactose intolerant, you will need to adapt your eating and drinking habits to control your symptoms. The degree of sensitivity varies from person to person so finding your own personal tolerance level is key to maintaining a healthy diet and controlling your symptoms. The most obvious first step to take is to limit the amount of milk and milk products in your diet. Sadly this does not just mean reducing the amount of bottled milk you drink. Unfortunately milk / milk product is present in many everyday foods. If your intolerance is severe you may need to make extra changes to your diet. However, it's thought that most people can have about 10 – 12g of lactose each day without suffering any adverse effects. This could be for example, in the form of 200ml / 7oz glass of milk, either full-fat, low-fat, or fat-free. It should be remembered that all milk contains the same amount of lactose regardless of fat content.

Working out your own tolerance level can take time and patience, you will need to stick to a strict restricted diet for a few days until symptoms subside before reintroducing milk type products. Some people with lactose intolerance find that by combining a solid food (like cereal) with milk, may reduce or eliminate symptoms. It may also be helpful to spread consumption of dairy products throughout the day rather than in one sitting.

Nowadays lactose free products are widely available from most grocery stores. It may be enough to control your symptoms simply by substituting your usual milk products with these lactose free alternatives. Soya products and non dairy creamers are also another option.