Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

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We all bloat. It’s normal. But if your morning porridge or coffee is making your jeans feel tight, it might be time to re-write the breakfast menu.

So how do you know if you have a lactose intolerance or if you’re just, well, bloated?
 
In order to understand, we need to know what lactose actually is and then know the actual symptoms of lactose intolerance. 

‘Lactose is a naturally-occurring sugar found in milk and foods made from milk, like yoghurt, ice cream and cheeses,’ says registered dietitian Laura Tilt.
 
Unlike an intolerance to, say, gluten, lactose intolerance is something that is medically recognised.

In the UK, it is thought to affect around 5% of people. So how do you know if you’re one of them? And if you actually have the symptoms of lactose intolerance, not just wind. 

THE SYMPTOMS OF LACTOSE INTOLERANCE

‘Lactose is made up of two sugars – galactose and glucose. In order to digest lactose, we need an enzyme called lactase to pull the sugars apart,’ says Tilt.

The sugars are then absorbed into the bloodstream.
 
So lactose intolerance comes down to lactase. When the body doesn’t make enough lactase it means that lactose can’t be digested. Keeping up?
 
And when it can’t be digested, it travels to the large intestine, triggering symptoms like stomach cramps, bloating, gas and diarrhoea.

Read on to discover the symptoms of IBS

Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance Nush Yoghurts

The lactose intolerance test

If you experience any or all of these symptoms after consuming lactose, you might want to visit your GP.

You can take the lactose intolerance test which involves a hydrogen breath test.

You’ll be asked to drink a solution containing lactose and then take a test to measure the levels of hydrogen in your breath in the following hours. 
 
If the lactose isn’t digested, it will be fermented by the bacteria in your large intestine, and hydrogen will be produced.

If the hydrogen reading is above a certain level (20 parts per million above your baseline) you will be diagnosed with a lactose intolerance.
 
But be warned: if you are intolerant, you will experience symptoms as a byproduct of having the test.

If you’d rather swerve the symptoms of lactose intolerance, Tilt suggests cutting lactose out of your diet for two to four weeks month to see if your symptoms improve, before reintroducing it with a glass of milk to see if the symptoms reoccur.

Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance Woman

Lactose intolerance diet 

If you feel confident that you do have a lactose intolerance – by means of formal diagnosis or your own period of abstinence – the best way to ease your symptoms is for a lactose intolerance diet. 

‘Lactose is found in the highest levels in milk, yoghurt, ice cream and soft cheese,’ says Tilt. ‘But it is also hidden in ready-made foods as well as things like whey and skimmed milk powder.’
 
Just how much lactose you can, well, stomach, will depend on how much lactase you produce.
 
‘Most people do produce small amounts of lactase,’ adds Tilt. ‘So some parmesan on your pasta – 0.1% lactose – or a splash of milk in your tea won’t be an issue. But larger quantities – like the amount of milk that goes into a latte or in a pot of yoghurt – will likely trigger symptoms.’
 
That said, if you are one of the few people who doesn’t produce any lactase, you will experience symptoms by consuming lactose in very small amounts.

Foods to avoid

Lactose can be found in many foods that you think are dairy free. Because of this, get to know the ingredients that you should look out for. These include:

  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Curds
  • Milk by-products
  • Dry milk solids
  • Non-fat dry milk powder

Foods to include

Cutting out lactose will also mean you’re missing out on key nutrients which you might struggle to find elsewhere, like calcium, protein and B vitamins. So make sure you replace them. These foods are considered to be calcium-rich:

  • Raw broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Canned salmon, sardines with bones or tuna
  • Calcium-fortified dairy-free milk
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Almonds

If you struggle to stomach dairy-free options Tilt has this advice: ‘The easiest way to make subtle changes to your diet is by drinking lactose-free milk and eating lactose-free yoghurt.’

‘Both have a similar nutritional profile to the versions which contain lactose. Also, don’t exclude low-lactose products, like hard cheeses, unless you really need to.’

Worried about intolerances? A Dr Explains The Symptoms Of IBS In A Language You’ll Understand and What Food To Eat To Ease IBS.

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