Millions of people around the world suffer from lactose intolerance – a digestive problem in which the body is unable to properly break down lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products.
Unlike other digestive conditions, lactose intolerance is not a sneaky condition, as its symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, and bloating usually show up between 30 minutes and 2 hours after consuming food or beverage that contains lactose. However, lactose intolerance testing remains important as it helps to rule out other problems and enables a GI specialist to make the necessary recommendations to ensure proper nutrition and prevent the risk of malnutrition and osteoporosis.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the hydrogen breath test, which is the most common testing method for lactose intolerance; how it works; and how to live well with the digestive problem.
What to Expect Prior to and During Lactose Intolerance Testing
The hydrogen breath test is a simple, non-invasive, and relatively accurate test that measures the amount of hydrogen in a person’s breath.
Normally, there is little hydrogen detectable in the breath. When a person has too much hydrogen in their breath, this signifies that they aren’t fully digesting lactose and there is bacterial fermentation in their gut. The gas is absorbed into their bloodstream and exhaled through their lungs.
For up to four weeks prior to your hydrogen breath test, your GI specialist may have you avoid taking antibiotics. For at least a week before the procedure, you may also be told to avoid taking laxatives. For at least 12 hours and the full day prior, you will likely need to fast and avoid high-fiber foods, respectively.
During your test, you will be instructed to drink a lactose-containing beverage, such as dairy milk, soda, or sugar water. Over the next two or three hours, you will be told to breathe into a balloon-like container, which measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath, at regular intervals. The results of the test are usually available within a few hours.
How to Avoid the Discomforts Caused by Lactose Intolerance
Since there’s no cure for lactose intolerance, your GI specialist will work with you to ensure proper nutrition. They will likely recommend milk substitutes, such as rice, almond, and soy milk, as well as other food sources of calcium, such as leafy green vegetables, cereals, juices, and canned salmon, among others.
If you don’t want to cut dairy out of your diet completely, your GI specialist may have you try only eating it in small quantities or taking lactase enzyme pills whenever you do consume dairy. These pills help your body to break down the lactose in dairy products.
Lactose Intolerance Testing in Brooklyn, OH
At North Shore Gastroenterology, we believe digestive health care should be comprehensive, convenient, and efficient. Lactose intolerance testing belongs to the vast array of services we offer to the residents of Brooklyn, Ohio to help them stay on top of their gut health.
We are independent yet closely affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, and offer surgery and appointments from two convenient locations.