Thirty minutes have passed since you had a bowl of ice cream, and now your stomach has cramps and gas. You feel like you might have diarrhea. Sound like you? Or you had milk, mashed potatoes, or even candy almost 2 hours ago and you have these symptoms. Does that sound like you? If so, you could be lactose intolerant.
Lactose is the main sugar in milk and in most other dairy products. When you are lactose intolerant, you don't make enough lactase to digest lactose well.
You can't cure lactose intolerance, but by changing what and how you eat, you can cut or even get rid of your symptoms.
Relieve your symptoms
Millions of people have symptoms of lactose intolerance:
You can use trial and error to find out which foods cause symptoms and in what quantity. Or, you may want to see your doctor for a diagnosis. You may be sensitive to small amounts of foods that have lactose, or you may only have symptoms if you eat a lot of foods with lactose. Its symptoms can be severe or mild. Lactose intolerance is different for everyone.
Find the culprits (Hint: It may not just be dairy products).
Milk and dairy products are the most popular lactose foods, but there are many others. Some non-dairy products have a protein called casein, which can have traces of lactose. To avoid symptoms of lactose intolerance, read food labels carefully. When shopping or cooking, look for these ingredients that have lactose:
Dry milk solids
If you are very sensitive to lactose, you may need to avoid foods such as:
Bread, Bake & Pancake Mixes
Certain types of sweets, such as milk chocolate
Instant foods (breakfast drink mixes, mashed potatoes, soups, and meal replacement drinks)
Non-dairy creamers (liquid and powder)
Nondairy whipped cover
Processed meats (bacon, hot dogs, hot dogs, and cold cuts)
Meal and protein replacement bars
Get a diagnosis
Your doctor may ask you to keep a diary of the food you eat, to note when you have symptoms, and to stop eating an offending food to see if your symptoms go away. To make a diagnosis, some doctors simply look at your symptoms and if avoiding dairy for 2 weeks relieves them.
To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may perform other tests, such as:
Hydrogen Breath Test Normally, people have very little hydrogen in their breath. However, if your body doesn't digest lactose, the hydrogen builds up in your intestines and will be in your breath after a while. This test measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath after drinking a lactose-laden drink several times in a few hours. If your levels are high 3 to 5 hours later, your body does not digest lactose well.
Lactose tolerance test When your body breaks down lactose, it releases sugar into your blood. This tests the amount of sugar in your blood. After fasting, a small blood sample is taken. Then drink a liquid that is high in lactose. Two hours later, you give him another blood sample. Since lactose causes blood sugar levels to rise, the blood sugar levels in this sample should be higher. If you are lactose intolerant, you will have a low rise in blood sugar and symptoms.
How to manage lactose intolerance
You can't change how well your body digests lactose, but it can cut or even stop your symptoms.
Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian who can help you plan a healthy diet that makes you feel good. Keep a food diary to help you know how much dairy (if any) you can eat without symptoms. Many people do not need to stop eating all dairy products.
By making small changes to what you eat, you may be able to prevent symptoms by helping your body digest dairy products more easily.
Don't eat dairy products alone. It is easier for your body to digest lactose when you take it with other foods. So try to have small amounts of milk or dairy products with meals.
Choose dairy products that are easier to digest. Some people find it easier to digest dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
Use lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk and milk products. You can find dairy products with the most lactose, or lactase added, in many grocery stores.
Switch to dairy-free products. There are many non-dairy options, such as almonds, rice, or soy milk. Special note on infants and young children: When infants have symptoms of lactose intolerance, many doctors recommend changing formula from cow's milk to soy milk until symptoms disappear, and then slowly adding cow's milk and dairy products to their diets.
Take a lactase enzyme replacement. These are available over the counter in pills or capsules. Take the recommended dose with your first drink or bite of dairy to help prevent symptoms of lactose intolerance.
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