Generally speaking, all humans are born with the enzyme lactase; however, as people age, lactose intolerance symptoms sometimes develop. While there are 50 million American adults struggling daily with this issue, certain ethnic groups tend to have more problems with this than others. Seventy-five percent of African-Americans, Jewish people, Native Americans and Hispanics have lost large amounts of lactase by adolescence. It is estimated that 90 percent of Asians have this problem, as well. The least common ethnic group to relate issues with lactose intolerance is those of Northern European descent.
Lactose Intolerance Symptoms Explained
Once dairy products containing lactose reach the colon that doesn't posses enzymes to absorb the sugars, uncomfortable symptoms occur indicating lactose intolerance. As a result, lactic acid and other acids are produced.
Anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours after eating dairy products, various symptoms may occur. These symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramping/rumbling
Typically, the more dairy eaten, the worse the symptoms are.
How to Know if it's Lactose Intolerance
Firstly, a physician may look at a patient's medical history for clues. Someone who suspects they have lactose intolerance symptoms may perform a test at home. To do this, they should refrain from eating any dairy products for several days in a row. Then, drink two large glasses of milk and wait for symptoms to occur. If symptoms occur within four hours, it is likely that the patient is experiencing lactose intolerance.
However, there is a more scientific approach to determining if symptoms being experienced really are lactose intolerance or signs of something else. Each of the following tests can be performed at an outpatient clinic.
Lactose Intolerance Test
The first test a doctor may do is a Lactose Intolerance Test. This test involves the testing of the levels of blood sugar. If a patient ingests dairy products and eventually develops an increase in blood sugars, it indicates that the body is doing something to break down the sugars for it to enter the bloodstream. However, if a patient's blood doesn't indicate an increase in blood sugar, that is a direct indicator that intolerance is occurring.
Hydrogen Blood Test
When the colon digests lactose, hydrogen is automatically released into the lungs and blood stream. If the amount of hydrogen doesn't measure up, then the cause is likely lactose intolerance.
Stool Acidity Test
As the sugars in milk are not properly digested, the colon produces acids. By measuring the acidity of a stool sample, indications of lactose intolerance can be observed.
The first thing a patient should do is avoid large amounts of dairy products. All food labels should be checked closely for ingredients such as lactose or milk. Some foods to watch out for are: baked goods, processed breakfast cereals, instant potatoes and soups, margarine, lunch meats, salad dressings, candies and pancake and biscuit mixes.
Lactase milk and other dairy products are available in many grocery stores and markets. These produces contain the enzymes which enables lactose intolerant people to digest lactose properly. Some grocery stores even carry lactose-free products. In addition to this option, many pharmacies and drug stores sell tablets or drops that contain lactase. You can consult with your local pharmacist for advice on which product will work better for you.
Once you've discovered that you're lactose intolerant, the uncomfortable symptoms typically associated with this problem can usually be avoided by paying attention to your eating habits. However, one other thing to consider is that your body will continue to need the vitamins and minerals contained in dairy products. Be sure to take calcium and other essential vitamins needed for good health.