If you feel uncomfortable after eating, there’s a chance that you could be lactose intolerant. Have you noticed that your symptoms are more severe when you’ve had milk, cheese or cream?
Do you find that your discomfort normally starts within half an hour to two hours after eating? If the answers are yes, it might be worth finding out whether you’re sensitive to lactose.
Understanding lactose intolerance
People who are lactose intolerant are unable to break down the sugar (lactose) that is found in dairy products. Because the small intestine finds it difficult to digest these sugars, they can’t be properly absorbed into the bloodstream.
A lot of the foods we eat and drink today have dairy products – and therefore lactose – in them. Some are easy to spot, like milk, ice cream and cheese, while others are trickier. Many packaged treats and meals have lactose products in them, meaning you may not realise that you’re eating them. If you think you may have a problem with lactose, keep a food diary to pinpoint the times you feel unwell and be sure to check the labels of everything you eat.
What it means to be intolerant
Being intolerant to lactose is not the same as suffering an allergy to it. Allergies can often be severe and life threatening and are more often immediately typified by itching around the mouth or breaking out in hives. An intolerance, on the other hand, normally manifests as abdominal pain and discomfort after ingesting products with lactose in them.
There are also different degrees of intolerance, so what may be a very mild discomfort for one person may be more intense for another. Some people may also have a partial intolerance, which means they can eat and drink a certain amount of lactose-based products without feeling ill but will develop symptoms if they exceed this amount.
Testing for lactose intolerance
If you keep a food diary, you’re likely to be able to see a correlation between what you eat and how you feel. However, you can also visit your doctor and have blood tests after fasting and ingesting lactose to determine whether you’re intolerant. You may also be able to have a hydrogen breath test, which measures the hydrogen in your exhalations and can tell when you’re not able to digest lactose.
Have yourself tested and watch your diet to see if you’re more comfortable and feel better when you avoid dairy products for a happier, healthier you.
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