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What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

Updated: Feb 5, 2019

Lactose is the main form of sugar that is found in milk and it is common in dairy products. Lactose intolerance occurs when your body finds it hard to properly digest milk and other dairy products.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

The symptoms occur only after eating food with dairy in it. Symptoms that people commonly experience are:

- Bloating (your belly feels swollen and full of air)

- Cramping around the belly button or below

- Gas

- Diarrhoea that is often foamy and watery

- Vomiting (less common in adults, mostly affects adolescents)

How does lactose intolerance work?

In people who do not have an intolerance to lactose, their bodies make enough of an enzyme called lactase. This is basically just a protein that digests lactose.

People who have lactose intolerance have a problem where their bodies either don’t make enough of this enzyme, or the enzyme doesn’t work as effectively as it is supposed to! This causes lactose to be left in the gut, undigested and leads to the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

How do I know if I have lactose intolerance?

There are two ways to be able to check for lactose intolerance. One of which is a breath test, which involves drinking some fluid that has lactose in it and then breathing out into a special device. You need to breathe out into it every half hour, and the device can pick up how much hydrogen is in there. When people are affected by lactose intolerance, they usually breathe out more hydrogen.

The other test is a blood test. The way this works is by having a drink of something that has lactose, and then your medical provider takes some blood at the start, and then 1 hour later and then 2 hours after the start of the test.

What is the treatment for lactose intolerance?

When people have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, the way the doctor chooses to treat them can change depending on how badly intolerant they are.

Common recommendations include:

- Cutting down on foods that have dairy in them such as milk, yogurt and cheeses

- Replacing the important vitamins and other nutrients that you are no longer getting (e.g. calcium and protein) from other foods (see our other article about calcium intake to learn more about this)

- Or buying that missing enzyme in a tablet, to help break down the lactose, which can be bought over the counter at most chemists.

If you are worried that lactose intolerance might be affecting you, come speak to one of our friendly doctors about it!

Call us on - 8340 2233

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