A lactose intolerance test is used to measure how well your body can digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Normally, the human body is able to process lactose, but some individuals cannot digest lactose properly, which can lead to symptoms, such as gas, stomach cramps, and bloating.
What Is Lactose Intolerance?
Our bodies digest lactose using an enzyme called lactase, which is produced by the small intestine. Lactase breaks down lactose into two smaller sugars called glucose and galactose, which can then be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. People with lactose intolerance do not produce enough lactase, which prevents them from digesting lactose successfully. This causes the lactose to remain in their digestive system where it is fermented by bacteria, leading to the production of different gases.
The production of these gases can lead to symptoms which usually occur within a few hours of consuming lactose. They can vary in severity depending on the amount of lactose that has been consumed and the person’s level of sensitivity to the lactose. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include:
- Stomach pain and cramps
- A gurgling stomach
When to Seek Advice
Depending on the underlying reason for the body’s inability to produce enough lactase, lactose intolerance may only be temporary and last for a few weeks, such as the result of an infection in the digestive system. Lactose intolerance can also share symptoms with other conditions, such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), so it is important to visit your physician if you experience ongoing symptoms in order to get the correct diagnosis. Your physician will likely recommend a lactose intolerance test to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
Lactose Intolerance Test Procedure
There are many types of tests used to check lactose intolerance, but the most common test is the hydrogen breath test. For this testing method, you will need to fast for 12 hours prior to the test and avoid eating high-fiber foods the day before. During the test, you will drink a liquid solution containing lactose, such as milk, regular soda, sugar water, or lactulose. Over the next 3-hour period, you will provide breath samples at 20 minutes intervals to measure the amount of hydrogen present in your breath. The greater the amount of hydrogen you exhale, the more likely it is that your body in unable to process lactose. Other types of lactose intolerance tests include a lactose tolerance blood test or stool acidity test.
Treatment For Lactose Intolerance
Dietary changes are often the most effective way to prevent symptoms of lactose intolerance. Depending on your level of intolerance, reducing or avoiding foods and drinks containing lactose usually helps to control symptoms successfully, and there are many lactose-free products and dairy substitutes readily available. Your physician may also recommend that you take calcium and vitamin D supplements to ensure you get the right levels in your diet. Lactase enzyme supplements to help digest lactose are also available, but always discuss with your physician before taking any type of medication or supplement.
Lactose Intolerance Testing In Westlake and Brooklyn, Ohio
If you have symptoms of a digestive disorder, schedule a consultation with one of our GI doctors at North Shore Gastroenterology. We offer a wide range of in-office services and procedures, including lactose intolerance testing, and have two convenient locations to serve you at Westlake and Brooklyn. For more information about lactose intolerance testing or any of our other services, call us at (440) 808-1212 or you can use our online form to request an appointment.