If You Have These Symptoms, You May Suffer From Lactose Intolerance
Do you know what's really causing those stomach pains?
What Are The Signs Of Food Intolerance?
Gas, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea... These symptoms may be vague and fleeting, or they could be indicative of a chronic food intolerance. Among Americans, lactose intolerance is common, although many sufferers are unaware and interpret their complaints incorrectly. Think you might be one of them? Here's how to figure it out...
What exactly is lactose intolerance? First of all, it's is not an allergy — it is the body's inability to break down lactose, a sugar naturally found in dairy products. When the undigested sugars pass into the large intestine, they can cause bloating, gas, belly pain, and diarrhea. Lactose is normally broken down by lactase, an ezyme that is produced in the small intestine.
Lactose intolerance is surprisingly common, affecting 75% of people globally and 25% of Americans. It also hits certain ethnic groups harder than others: researchers have found that approximately 90% of Asian Americans, 70% of African Americans, 53% percent of Mexican Americans tested have lactose intolerance.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Cutting out dairy for a week is not always enough to determine if you're lactose intolerant or not. Lactose intolerance can vary widely in severity, and reactions to various dairy products can differ. It can manifest at a young age, or appear spontaneously later in life (and disappear just as suddenly).
The most accurate way of diagnosing lactose intolerance is to request an hydrogen breath test from your doctor. You will have to drink a liquid that contains lactose and breathe into a machine at fixed intervals over the course of 4 hours. If hydrogen levels in your breath are high, it may indicate lactose intolerance.
If you are lactose intolerant, it is adviseable to cut out all dairy from your diet. Alternatively, you can take lactase enzyme pills (widely available at pharmarcies) to eat with your meals.
If you are learning to skip dairy entirely, fear not: here are 7 amazing entirely dairy-free desserts!