Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the lactose in milk products. This inability – which is literally indigestion – produces uncomfortable symptoms, such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
A person who is not lactose intolerant naturally produces an enzyme called lactase, which is essential in digesting lactose. It is the lactase enzyme that people who are lactose intolerant do not have. Therefore, treatment for lactose intolerance usually involves limiting exposure to dairy as well as incorporating lactase-containing products in your diet to help break down lactose in dairy products.
Doctors are able to easily diagnose lactose intolerance just based on your symptoms. However, it is also possible for an underlying health condition to cause your inability to digest lactose, in which case treatment of the underlying condition should restore your body’s ability to digest lactose again.
How Can I Treat My Lactose Intolerance?
There are a couple of basic ways in which you can treat your lactose intolerance, and they involve limiting lactose and making lactase. Let’s talk about what each of these entails:
Limiting Lactose in Your Diet
Patients who are lactose intolerant can often avoid uncomfortable symptoms by adopting a low-lactose diet. This involves consuming low levels of dairy products and choosing lactose-free milk instead.
Some people with this condition find that milk itself produces virtually no symptoms if it is consumed along with cereal or other foods. This is because the digestive process is slowed down, which helps reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance.
In addition, many also find that not all milk and dairy products produce symptoms. For instance, ice cream and some cheeses may not cause symptoms.
However, some patients are completely intolerant to milk products and foods that are made with milk products – but this may be a symptom of a milk allergy, which is very different from lactose intolerance. Your gastroenterologist will be able to determine whether you have lactose intolerance or a milk allergy, and how to handle the situation.
Taking Lactase to Digest Lactose
Just like a supplement, lactase enzymes can be taken by people who are lactose intolerant. They come in tablet or liquid form, and they are taken before consuming milk or dairy products in order to reduce the chances of experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms of lactose intolerance. The lactase may also be added to a carton of milk.
While taking lactase works for many patients with lactose intolerance, it does not work for all. If it does not work for you, your doctor may prescribe alternative treatment methods.
Lactose Intolerance Treatment in Greater Cleveland, Ohio
If you are experiencing symptoms of lactose intolerance, our physicians here at North Shore Gastroenterology can diagnose and recommend the best treatment for your condition. We use a lactose hydrogen breath test to diagnose lactose intolerance and proceed from there. Our goal is to reduce your GI symptoms and enable you to live a normal life despite your condition.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified gastroenterologists, call (440) 808-1212 today or request an appointment online now. We look forward to serving you at either of our clinics in Westlake or Brooklyn, Ohio.