Symptoms of lactose
intolerance can be mild to severe, depending on how much lactase your body
makes. Symptoms usually begin 30 minutes to 2 hours after you eat or drink milk
products. If you have lactose intolerance, your symptoms may include:
- Pain or
- Gurgling or rumbling sounds in your
- Loose stools or
- Throwing up.
Many people who have gas, belly pain, bloating, and
diarrhea suspect they may be lactose-intolerant. The best way to check this is
to avoid eating all milk and dairy products to see if your symptoms go away. If
they do, then you can try adding small amounts of milk products to see if your
symptoms come back.
If you feel sick after drinking a glass of
milk one time, you probably do not have lactose intolerance. But if you feel
sick every time you have milk, ice cream, or another dairy product, you may
have lactose intolerance.
Sometimes people who have never had
problems with milk or dairy products suddenly have lactose intolerance. This is
more common as you get older.
If you think you might have lactose
intolerance, talk with your doctor. He or she can make sure that your symptoms
are caused by lactose intolerance and not by another problem.
A doctor can
usually tell whether you have lactose intolerance by asking questions about
your symptoms. He or she may also ask that you avoid dairy products for a short
time to see if your symptoms improve.
Sometimes doctors order a
hydrogen breath test or a blood sugar test to confirm
the diagnosis. These simple tests check to see if you are digesting lactose
There is no cure for lactose
intolerance. But you can treat your symptoms by limiting or avoiding milk
products. Some people use milk with reduced lactose, or they substitute soy
milk and soy cheese for milk and milk products. Some people who are
lactose-intolerant can eat yogurt without problems, especially yogurt with live
cultures. You can also take dietary supplements called lactase products that
help digest lactose. In time, most people who have lactose intolerance get to know
their bodies well enough to avoid symptoms.
One of the biggest
concerns for people who are lactose-intolerant is making sure they get enough
of the nutrients found in milk products, especially calcium. Calcium is most
important for children, teens, pregnant women, and women after menopause. There
are many nondairy foods that contain calcium, including:
- Broccoli, okra, kale, collards, and turnip
- Canned sardines, tuna, and salmon.
Calcium-fortified juices and cereals.
- Calcium-fortified soy
products such as soy milk, tofu, and soybeans.