For many of us, dairy is an integral part of our diet. Without it, there are many foods that would be pretty bland or boring. For some people, however, consuming dairy products can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like gas and bloating, so they need to remove them from their diets altogether.
Let’s take a closer look at what lactose intolerance is and how you might be able to identify it.
What Is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance happens when someone cannot digest lactose, which is a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products, for genetic or physical reasons.
Individuals with lactose intolerance lack the enzyme lactase, which is used to digest lactose. This is different from an allergy to cow’s milk protein or sensitivity to one of the other components in dairy products such as whey.
Lactase is not found in many places throughout the body except for your small intestine, and this is where lactose and lactase must meet up before lactose can be broken down into its two simpler sugars (glucose and galactose).
What Are the Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance?
There are a number of symptoms that can result from lactose intolerance, including:
- Bloating and flatulence, particularly after eating dairy products (this is most likely due to undigested lactose)
- Abdominal pain, which may be accompanied by cramps or diarrhea in some cases
- Fever and upset stomach (only in extreme cases)
How Do I Know If I’m Lactose Intolerant?
The best way to determine if you are lactose intolerant is by eliminating dairy from your diet for at least two weeks. You will want to be sure to include alternative sources of calcium and vitamin D to make up for the nutrients you’ll be losing. If your symptoms clear up during this time, the chances are good that you have a case of lactose intolerance.
You may also want to speak with your doctor or another medical professional about being tested for lactose intolerance before removing dairy from your diet, just in case something else is going on. With patience and diligence, the symptoms of lactose intolerance can be managed and treated.