Are you a milk lover, but you just can’t stand the nasty discomforts—diarrhea, stomach pain, and bloating—that you experience after each time you drink even half a glass of it?
The culprit behind your “gassy ordeal” could be a condition called lactose intolerance. This is a common digestive problem in which your stomach is unable to digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products.
There are tests available to help your gastroenterologist accurately diagnose your condition. Let’s check them out.
Food Log Evaluation
If you haven’t scheduled an appointment with your gastroenterologist yet, you may want to start keeping a food log, where you can jot down every food and beverage you consumed every day. Additionally, make sure to list down any digestive discomforts you experienced each day.
You should bring this journal with you when you see your gastroenterologist. During your appointment, your doctor will evaluate the entries and determine if your symptoms could be related to lactose intolerance. Your doctor won’t use this as the only determining factor, but it can be useful for identifying what type of testing you should have.
Hydrogen Breath Test
Lactose is normally broken down by lactase, an enzyme found in the small intestine. If you have lactose intolerance, you aren’t able to produce this enzyme in your body. As a result, lactose will move into your large intestine, in which bacteria will break it down instead. Hydrogen is the byproduct of this process, thus the name of the test.
While a hydrogen breath test is a fairly simple procedure, there are specific guidelines that you need to closely follow within four weeks prior to your test. You have to make sure your gastroenterologist discusses what you exactly need to do, to ensure accurate results. Your doctor will advise you to fast for 12 hours prior to your test and not to eat high-fiber foods 24 hours prior.
To do a hydrogen breath test, your gastroenterologist will instruct you to gently blow into a bag to obtain an initial breath sample. You will then be told to consume a small amount of drink (usually milk or regular soda) containing different types of sugar. Over a 3-hour period, you will be told to breathe into a bag every 20 minutes. Your doctor will use a breath analysis device to measure the amount of hydrogen in your breath.
Normally, your breath contains a minute amount of hydrogen. If your hydrogen level is high, it could mean that you’re lactose intolerant.
As with a hydrogen breath test, blood testing for lactose intolerance also involves consuming a beverage that contains a high amount of lactose.
Your gastroenterologist will ask you to wait two hours after you consume the drink; this gives your body time to process it. Your doctor will then collect a sample of your blood, then analyze the blood glucose level.
If your doctor notices no change in your sugar level, it is an indication that your body isn’t able to break down the sugar in the drink, which most likely means you are lactose intolerant.
Lactose Intolerance Testing in Westlake and Brooklyn, OH
If you’re experiencing symptoms of lactose intolerance, visit us at North Shore Gastroenterology & Endoscopy Centers for a hydrogen breath test and comprehensive evaluation.
Our board-certified gastroenterologists are experts in performing hydrogen tests, ensuring that you will get accurate results. Once we confirm that you have lactose intolerance, we will give you diet recommendations to help you avoid the annoying symptoms of the condition and make sure you’re still eating right.
To arrange a consultation with any of our gastroenterologists, call us at (440) 808-1212 or use this appointment request form.