Do you feel digestive discomfort in your stomach after drinking milk or eating dairy products? Then you might be suffering from lactose intolerance. However, some digestive disorders can cause similar symptoms, therefore not every stomach ache or bloating is a sign of lactose intolerance.
Before you contact your doctor, look back at your recent eating habits, or even start keeping a dietary journal for a few days. The important part is to mark down each time you eat a dairy product, or drink a milk-based beverage. Did anything special happen 1-2 hours (and sometimes even less) after your meal? Did you suffer from diarrhea, stomach bloating nausea or other digestive-related symptoms?
If this only happens once or twice, then the reasons might be different. If, however, you feel discomfort after every (or most) dairy-based meals, then you should definitely contact your doctor for a lactose intolerance test.
Keep in mind that different types of food contain different amounts of lactose, therefore some dairy products might affect you differently than others (or even not at all).
Home Testing: Avoid milk and other dairy products completely for a few days. Then, drink a couple of glasses of milk. Is your stomach screaming at you? Then it’s time to call your doctor.
How do I test for Lactose Intolerance?
The Hydrogen Breath Test: When your doctor suspects lactose intolerance, he will most likely refer you to do a Hydrogen Breath Test. During the test, you will be asked to breathe into a special tube, container or “balloon” bags. The air you breathe into this container is tested for hydrogen. Normally, hydrogen levels in your breath should be low.
After the initial testing, you will drink a beverage containing lactose. Then, for about 2 hours, you will breathe into the container again, in 15-20 minute intervals. Every time you breathe into the container, the air will be tested for the presence of hydrogen again.
If your body can’t break down lactose, breath hydrogen levels increase above the normal levels of people without lactose issues, therefore high hydrogen levels could lead to a diagnosis of lactose intolerance.
The Hydrogen Breath Test is not painful in any way. However, if you ARE lactose intolerant, then obviously the lactose-beverage might induce the regular lactose intolerance symptoms, such as cramps, bloating, etc.
Lactose intolerance can also be tested with a blood test, though that method is less common. For more information about lactose intolerance testing, you can check out the MedLine Plus Encyclopedia.