It is very common to have some discomfort after eating certain foods, such as milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance is not a condition, but a symptom or side effect of certain digestive conditions.
Milk and dairy products are digested by the enzyme lactase, which is found in the saliva. Lactose intolerance is the inability of your body to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. This can lead to bloating, nausea, and diarrhea.
It is normal to have a little discomfort after eating foods that contain lactose.
However, if you have symptoms after eating milk, you may have a lactose intolerance.
If you have lactose intolerance, it means that your body can’t properly digest the sugar in milk and dairy products. You may also experience other symptoms, such as:
A sudden urge to urinate before you normally do, even if you’ve just eaten
Gas or bloating
In the United States, lactose intolerance is fairly common. It affects around 8 to 10 percent of the population.
Most people who have lactose intolerance will also experience bloating and gas after eating dairy or milk products.
However, this may be due to eating other foods that contain lactose, not lactose intolerance.
If you have lactose intolerance, you may also experience acid reflux. This is when stomach acid leaks back up into the esophagus. This can cause heartburn or sore throat.
If you experience these symptoms, you have the potential to have acid reflux without having lactose intolerance.
If you experience these symptoms and are lactose intolerant, you may want to avoid eating or drinking dairy products until your body is able to digest them properly.
How do I know if I have lactose intolerance?
When you eat dairy products, including milk, it can cause some bloating and gas. You may also have a sudden urge to urinate, even if you’ve just eaten.
Lactose intolerance is not a condition, but a symptom or side effect of certain digestive conditions.
Lactose intolerance is not as common as some other digestive conditions, such as lactase deficiency, but it is fairly common.
If you’re lactose intolerant, you may experience other symptoms, such as:
- Gas or diarrhea after eating dairy products
- Acid reflux
If you’ve been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, you may also experience:
- A quick, unexplained urge to urinate before you normally do
- Abdominal pain
What are my symptoms?
You may be lactose intolerant if you experience any of the following symptoms after eating dairy products:
- Bloating or gas
- A sudden urge to urinate
You may experience these symptoms if you are lactose intolerant. However, you may also have these symptoms if you have a digestive condition, such as lactose malabsorption.
How is lactose intolerance diagnosed?
Your doctor will probably diagnose lactose intolerance if you have any of the following symptoms after eating dairy products:
- A sudden, unexplained urge to urinate before you normally do
- A sudden, unexplained urge to pass gas
If your doctor suspects you have lactose intolerance, they may ask you about your medical history and symptoms.
They may also ask you to do a physical exam. During the exam, your doctor will check for:
- Bloated or gassy feeling after you eat dairy
- Difficulty swallowing
If your symptoms are consistent with lactose intolerance, you may have a lactose intolerance test. This involves drinking a lactose-containing fluid, such as milk, and then having your blood sugar and lactase levels checked.
If you have lactose intolerance, you should be able to digest lactose. However, you may have a lactose intolerance test if you can’t digest lactose and you have symptoms.
How is lactose intolerance treated?
Medications for lactose intolerance include:
- Lactose-free milk
- Lactase tablets
- Lactase enzyme supplements
If your doctor prescribes lactose-free milk, you may need to drink it in small amounts until your body is able to process it properly.
However, it is important to understand that lactose-free milk is not the same as dairy-free milk.
Dairy-free milk is a milk-alternative that does not contain lactose. It is available at specialty stores and online.
Some people may be lactose intolerant and still be able to drink dairy-free milk. However, most people can’t tolerate it.
It is also worth noting that lactose-free milk is not the same as lactose-free ice cream or yogurt.
For this reason, you may need to avoid drinking dairy-free milk for up to a few weeks and then gradually reintroduce it into your diet.
You may also want to avoid dairy-free products if you have a digestive disorder, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
If you can tolerate dairy-free milk, you may want to try it out for a few weeks before reintroducing dairy products to your diet.
Lactase enzyme supplements
People with lactose intolerance may also be prescribed lactase enzyme supplements. These are available without a prescription.
Lactase is a substance that your body uses to digest lactose. If you’re not producing enough lactase, your body isn’t able to digest milk and other dairy products.
Lactase enzyme supplements can be taken as a pill, liquid, or powder.
As with lactose-free milk, you may need to take lactase enzyme supplements for up to few weeks before reintroducing dairy.
Lactase enzyme supplements can also be taken orally or added to water.
If you’re not sure if you’re lactose intolerant, talk to your doctor.
If you’re lactose intolerant, you may be able to tolerate lactose-free products.
The American College of Gastroenterology recommends that you try lactase enzyme supplements, lactose-free milk, and lactose-free ice cream (if this is your preference) before trying lactose-free products.
If you’re lactose intolerant, you may not be able to tolerate products that contain lactose.
Lactose intolerance is when you have a temporary or long-term inability to digest lactose. You may develop lactose intolerance after drinking a lactose-containing product such as milk or dairy.
If you’re lactose intolerent, you may experience symptoms, such as bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.
If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist.
If your doctor recommends lactase enzyme supplements, lactose-free yogurt, or lactose-free ice cream, you may need to take them for a few weeks to see if you’re able to tolerate them.
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