If you experience symptoms such as stomach cramps, gas, bloating, and diarrhea after consuming dairy products, it could be lactose intolerance. However, unless you are diagnosed with lactose intolerance by a doctor, you cannot be sure what gastrointestinal (GI) condition you have – indeed, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease can also trigger similar symptoms.
To diagnose lactose intolerance, your gastroenterologist would need to review your symptoms, check your medical history and your family’s medical history, conduct a physical exam, and possibly order tests or scans to rule out other health conditions. This will narrow down the issue, because it is largely a process of elimination.
Your gastroenterologist may ask that you stop consuming foods and drinks that contain dairy. If the symptoms go away completely, you are likely to be lactose intolerant.
Let’s talk about why a patient cannot assume that they have lactose intolerance, what is done to help establish the diagnosis, and where you can go in the southwest suburbs of Cleveland for world-class gastroenterology.
How Is Lactose Intolerance Diagnosed?
A hydrogen breath test is the standard test for lactose intolerance, and this involves analyzing your breath. The doctor may ask that you fast for 12 hours in preparation for the hydrogen breath test.
For the test, you will be asked to drink a lactose-heavy beverage. Over the next three-hour period, your gastroenterologist will take breath samples by asking you to breathe into a balloon-like container at 20-minute intervals. This will measure the amount of hydrogen present in your breath.
What Does Hydrogen Have to Do with Lactose Intolerance?
The reason why hydrogen is tested is because hydrogen gas is produced by intestinal bacteria after fermentation of glucose – which occurs when the body is not able to break down lactose. The hydrogen gas is then absorbed by intestinal mucus, and the vasculature moves the gas into the lungs and is exhaled through breathing.
The hydrogen content in your breath will therefore determine whether you are able to break down lactose. It is normal to have a certain amount of hydrogen in your breath after drinking liquids containing glucose, but high levels of hydrogen indicate that your body is not fully digesting or absorbing lactose.
Lactose Intolerance Breath Testing in Westlake and Brooklyn, Ohio
Our GI doctors here at North Shore Gastroenterology can quickly diagnose lactose intolerance and recommend treatment that will help improve your digestion. Symptoms associated with lactose intolerance are not just uncomfortable, they can also cause embarrassment – so it is in your best interest to have a firm medical diagnosis so you can get treatment that works for you.
If you are experiencing anxiety whenever you eat out and socialize with others, our highly experienced doctors can help with finding a solution. We perform comprehensive testing for lactose intolerance, lactose allergies, and all other digestive problems.
For any questions or to schedule an appointment with one of our GI doctors, call our gastroenterology clinic today at (440) 808-1212 or fill out our convenient appointment request form online now. We look forward to helping you get a handle on your digestive issues!