People who are unable to make enough lactase (a digestive enzyme) to digest lactose, which is a type of sugar found in dairy, are lactose intolerant. While the condition is not life-threatening, it can be a source of discomfort and embarrassment. Being lactose intolerant means you have to be extra vigilant with what you choose to eat or drink, unless you want to experience gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.
To be certain that you are lactose intolerant and do not have another digestive disorder, you can undergo testing for lactose intolerance. It is a non-invasive procedure that takes approximately four hours to complete.
How Is Lactose Intolerance Diagnosed?
If you abstain from consuming dairy products and do not experience digestive issues, only for them to return once you consume milk products, chances are, you are lactose intolerant. The elimination diet, however, falls short of confirming lactose intolerance for many people.
The test used to diagnose lactose intolerance is the hydrogen breath test.
Hydrogen Breath Test
A hydrogen breath test entails collecting breath samples to test for the presence of hydrogen. A high amount of hydrogen is very telling of not being able to digest lactose. If lactose is not digested by the body, it is fermented by bacteria in the intestine, which leads to the production of hydrogen gas.
An initial breath sample will be taken and tested. It is normal to have hydrogen present in the breath sample, which will serve as your baseline sample. Then, you will be asked to drink a liquid that contains high amounts of lactose. Breath samples will be taken after every 20 minutes for the next four hours. Hydrogen levels of over 20 ppm are considered high and suggest lactose intolerance.
Before taking a hydrogen breath test, patients are instructed not to eat or drink anything for 12 hours prior, as well as not to smoke or expose themselves to secondhand smoke. Twenty-four hours before the test, you should start on a diet of plain white rice, broiled chicken, turkey, or fish, clear broth, and non-flavored coffee and tea. You should also limit physical activities starting the day before the test. If you are diabetic, let your healthcare provider know for specific instructions on how to prepare for the test without compromising your blood sugar levels.
Gastroenterologist in Brooklyn and Westlake, OH
If you are experiencing symptoms of lactose intolerance, getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step to receiving comprehensive and tailored treatment. Our gastroenterologists at North Shore Gastroenterology are highly experienced in treating patients who are lactose intolerant, helping improve their quality of life, and ensuring they get essential nutrients from food sources other than dairy products. We perform hydrogen breath tests and other procedures in our Westlake and Brooklyn facilities.
To schedule an appointment with one of our GI doctors, call North Shore Gastroenterology today at (440) 808-1212, or use our convenient online request form. Our friendly staff looks forward to serving you.