Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are my stomach problems due to lactose intolerance?"
I have always had a kind of jumpy or touchy stomach. Lately I've increased my dairy intake and the symptoms with my stomach have got worse. Does that mean I am lactose intolerant? How do I find out?
Lactose intolerance occurs when you body cannot easily digest and metabolize lactose, the sugar in milk, as a result of a lactase deficiency. Sugar molecules cannot be absorbed through the wall of the small intestine into a bloodstream without the presence of a special enzyme called lactase to break them down. Therefore, when you consume dairy products its lactose remains undigested and passes intact into the colon where enteric bacteria quickly take over to lactose metabolism producing significant amounts of gas that give you abdominal cramps, gas, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea, etc. These symptoms will usually start within 30 minutes to 2 hours, although not everyone who is lactose intolerant reacts the same way or within the same amount of time. For instance, people with partial lactose intolerance may be able to handle more lactose than others can. To find out if you have lactose intolerance, you can avoid diary products for about 3 to 4 days to see if these symptoms go away. Then, the following morning, you can drink 8 to 10 ounces of milk to see if you have symptoms. You can also take an enzyme lactase to help digest the lactose. Another test is that you can eat cheese and yogurt which typically cause less symptoms than milk. However, I would suggest a confirmed diagnosis by a primary care physician who can order a blood test or a hydrogen breath test.
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