What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a condition where an individual’s body will not be able to digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter. This condition happens because the secretion of lactase is less in the person. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose into two sugars-glucose and galactose. The inability of the body to absorb lactose will not lead to any significant health complications, but it will create discomfort and digestive issues. There are lactose intolerance tests available to help spot lactose intolerance levels.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance

The symptoms of lactose intolerance will kick in after about 30 minutes of consuming food containing lactose. The lactose not digested by the body will remain in the digestive system and get fermented. It will further lead to the following symptoms in adults and can vary from one person to another:

  • Nausea

When the lactose remains indigested, it might lead to nausea. This feeling mainly occurs since the body tries to push the substances it cannot contain inside.

  • Bloating

The gas captured inside the intestine leads to bloating and might cause pain. The pain is most likely to be felt around the belly button region.

  • Diarrhea

The lactose remaining in the intestine may lead to diarrhea or watery stool. This side effect will cause a frequent urge to empty your bowels.

  • Cramps in the stomach

The gas remaining inside the intestine tries to find its way out. When not possible, it comes in contact with the walls of the intestine, causing further pain.

  • Gas

The fermentation happens inside the gut leading to the formation of gases like hydrogen and carbon dioxide, which stay in the intestine. These gases may increase the cramps which are already present.

How long do lactose intolerance symptoms last?

The symptoms of lactose intolerance are most likely to last for about 48 hours or less. The symptoms will persist until the body gets rid of the lactose.

Diagnosis–Lactose intolerance test

The following are the lactose intolerance tests taken to identify the condition:

Lactose intolerance is diagnosed by having the patient consume lactose-containing foods or beverages, followed by the collection of blood samples. The tests run will look for the sugar levels in the blood; the levels obtained will exhibit the amount of sugar digested by the body and the amount that remains in the blood. The results reveal that if the body could efficiently digest the sugar (lactose).

Another method to determine lactose intolerance is testing the level of hydrogen in the breath. The individual consumes food containing lactose before the test. If there is an increase in hydrogen levels inside the intestine, it exhibits the fermentation that has taken place in the intestine with the lactose remnants.