What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is when the body can’t easily or fully digest lactose. Lactose is a sugar mostly found in milk in other dairy products. The body has an enzyme called lactase that digests lactose; when the body has low levels of that enzyme, it can’t work fast enough to fully digest the lactose.

Is lactose intolerance the same as a dairy allergy?
This is different than a food allergy to milk. In an allergy, the body reacts to the substance, with lactose intolerance, the body doesn’t’ have enough enzyme to digest the substance.

What are the signs, symptoms and causes of lactose intolerance?
Symptoms can be from mild to quite severe. Common symptoms are abdominal bloating and cramps, flatulence, diarrhea, nausea, and sometimes vomiting.  These usually happen from about 30 minutes up to 2 hours after consuming milk or dairy products. Lactose intolerance commonly runs in families and often develops during the teen years.

How is it diagnosed?
One initial way to check is to stop drinking milk or consuming dairy products for a week or so and see if the symptoms go away. If you are unsure and need stronger confirmation there are 4 tests that can be done: a hydrogen breath test, a lactose tolerance blood test, a stool acidity test (for infants and children) and an intestinal biopsy. All of these tests are ordered by a physician.

What else could these signs and symptoms be?
Several conditions can the symptoms listed above such as gastroenteritis, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. If you have stopped drinking milk to consuming dairy products and the symptoms are continuing, you should see a doctor to get the correct diagnosis.

How do you know if you’re lactose intolerant?
To answer that question, try stopping milk for several days and see if the symptoms improve.  If they do then there are several things you can do to manage this. Talk with your pharmacist or physician about possible treatments. If not, then see your doctor to investigate further.