Your digestive organs ensure that what you eat and drink are absorbed and converted into energy and nutrients your body can use, while waste materials are eliminated. However, the body may sometimes be unable to digest certain types of food or sugar, like lactose. As a result, you may experience symptoms such as gas and bloating.
Because some conditions share similar symptoms, it is best to get tested for lactose intolerance to receive proper diagnosis and treatment.
What is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance occurs when your body cannot digest lactose, a sugar commonly found in milk and other dairy products, due to the reduced production of the enzyme lactase.
Lactase is responsible for digesting lactose, breaking it down into glucose and galactose. Instead of being absorbed in the intestinal lining, undigested lactose interacts with the bacteria in the colon, thus causing the symptoms of the condition.
Lactose intolerance is by far the most common food intolerance, affecting about 65% of the world’s population. The condition can be congenital (congenital alactasia) or develop much later in adulthood (lactase nonpersistence).
When to Get Tested for Lactose Intolerance
Diagnosing lactose intolerance can be a little tricky as it shares similar symptoms with other health conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
In some cases, the condition may only be temporary. However, if you continue to show signs and symptoms after eating dairy or anything with lactose, it is recommended to seek your gastroenterologist for advice. This ensures you get a proper diagnosis before you consider removing certain foods from your diet.
A physical exam may be done to check for bloating. Your doctor may also ask about your eating habits and family health history, as genetics is one of the condition’s risk factors. They may also order tests to determine whether you have lactose intolerance.
Hydrogen Breath Test
The hydrogen breath test is used to diagnose lactose intolerance. You need to fast and avoid eating high-fiber foods 12 hours before the test.
The procedure involves drinking a test liquid containing lactose. Every 20 minutes, your doctor will ask you to provide breath samples, which they check for hydrogen. This is repeatedly done in a span of 3 hours. A higher hydrogen level indicates that you are not absorbing lactose properly and may have lactose intolerance.
Lactose Tolerance Blood Test
Same with the hydrogen breath test, you will also be instructed to drink a liquid that contains lactose. After this, you’ll undergo blood tests to check the level of glucose in your blood. There should be a rise in the amount; if there is none, your body is not absorbing lactose properly.
Signs and Symptoms
While lactose intolerance can be harmless, its symptoms are extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient. These usually begin showing within a few minutes to the first 2 hours after consuming food with lactose. If you suspect that you have lactose intolerance, look out for the following symptoms:
- Stomach cramps and pains
- Rumbling stomach
Lactose Intolerance Diagnosis in Greater Cleveland, Ohio
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of lactose intolerance, don’t hesitate to reach out to a doctor to get a diagnosis. Here at North Shore Gastroenterology, our team of skilled providers is dedicated to providing the care you need. The goal of treatment for lactose intolerance is to control its symptoms through dietary changes or taking a lactase enzyme supplement.
To consult with our providers, you may visit our clinics located in Westlake and Brooklyn, Ohio. For your questions and other concerns, call us at (440) 808-1212. Alternatively, you may also request an appointment online.