How do you know you are Lactose Intolerant?

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My teenage brother is Lactose intolerant. He never said 'CHEESE' when we took picture of him. Now he is free from this condition and leads a healthy life. So, I decided to tell him to say 'CHEESE' out loud. Of course, he is following my order. Now he says "LACTOSE FREE CHEESE" in front of camera.

Hello, I hope you are happy and cheerful as ever. Today, I'm going to write something on diagnostic approach related to Lactose intolerance. I have divided the procedure into two parts.


Tests for Lactose Intolerance


Testing at Home :
Simple tests at your home for lactose intolerance before seeing your doctor

Testing at Your Doctor Ofice :

Tests performed by your physician.

  1. Hydrogen breath test
  2. Lactose tolerance test
  3. Milk tolerance test
  4. Stool Sample
  5. Small bowel biopsy


Let's see how you can test Lactose Intolerance at home.

There are some simple tests you can run at your home to see whether you are lactose intolerant or not. Please remember, this is not a diagnostic test for this disorder. This is kind of screening test.

I prefer taking the test on weekend. Because there may be some abdominal discomfort that you should deal at your home.

Please try to make a checklist of your own to see your body's response to products containing lactose. Now, let's go through the test:


On the first day:

a. Avoid all sorts of food on the evening before the test (after 10 PM) . You can take plain water. But no juice, cold drinks.

b. Have your breakfast in the morning (you can try eggs and whole wheat toast with jam for example). After that drink a large 12oz glass of regular milk (preferably fat free).

Now, open up your check list. Look for any abdominal discomforts like bloating, diarrhea, gas, cramping, nausea etc over the next three hours. If you find anything, please note down the problems along with the severity of it.

On the second day:

a. Same as day one. Don't eat or drink anything after 10 PM.

b. You should have exactly the same breakfast as day one. Then take same amount of lactose free milk. These are widely available in the market. You should try a popular brand.

See how you feel. Check out any discomfort over the three hours duration. Also look for intensity of the symptoms. Then compare the symptoms between day one and two. You may find:

Your second day symptoms were milder than first day symptoms: Here you may be lactose intolerant.

You don't feel any problem at any time: You are not lactose intolerant. You can fly.

You were not comfortable with milk on both days: You should see a doctor. You may be allergic to milk protein (milk allergy).

This test gives you some clue about disease condition. But remember, you should confirm the diagnosis with your doctor. Why I am saying this over and over again? Please, don't get mad at me.

It is seen that one out of every three people who "self-diagnosed" themselves as severely lactose intolerant were actually able to digest 15 g lactose (just over 1 cup of milk)! So before you are so sure that you are lactose intolerant and starting to get sick mentally, lets have an appointment with your doctor. It is very important to have an objective evidence of lactose intolerance.


Diagnosis Tests at Your Doctor Ofice :


Now, let's see what your physician can offer. I know you don't like doctors. Me neither! They cut your body into many pieces while listening to John Denver or A.R. Rahman song 'Jai ho' (may victory be yours). Isn't it so cute dear? I don't know what they will win after cutting your body with those smooth scissors!

By the way, why they do that? This helps them to remain calm. There is no way to become emotional during a surgery. I have seen so many doctors taking some bold decisions to save their patients. I respect them.

Before consulting your doctor, you can try to keep a diary of what you eat and drink, and what symptoms you experience.

Here are the tests that your doctor may advice to know you are Lactose Intolerant or not:

You don't need to have in depth analysis of these tests. If you know all about it, your physician may escape from you! But I'm giving you some simple ideas.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ8PsPb9ZAk

Hydrogen breath test:

This is a simple and useful test. Here, you will be given a drink of lactose solution after you have fasted overnight. The concentration of hydrogen is measured in the air that you breathe out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3N5dnEqRtM

Lactose tolerance test:

In this test, you will be given a drink of lactose solution, and then a sample of blood will be taken from your vein. Then your blood sugar level will be measured. Normally, your sugar level should rise after taking lactose solution. In case of lactose intolerance, your blood sugar levels will either rise slowly, or not at all.

Milk tolerance test:

For this test, you will be given a glass of milk (about 500ml) and your blood sugar levels will be tested. If your blood sugar levels do not rise after drinking the milk, you may be lactose intolerant.

Stool sample:

Lactose tolerance and hydrogen breath tests are dangerous to perform in young children. That's why, stool sample is taken in case of children. Here, the amount of acid in the stool sample is measured.

Small bowel biopsy:

It is rarely used to diagnose lactose intolerance as it is an invasive procedure. Most importantly it is done to see if symptoms are being caused by another condition like coeliac disease. Here, a sample of small intestinal lining is taken ( also known as biopsy) using an endoscope.

Last words:

You don't need to go through all the tests. Your doctor will decide the best diagnostic approach. Try to accept the truth and work on it. Every tomorrow is a vision of hope. Every problem you face has a solution. Don't be scared. Don't complicate your life. Try to see through a child's eye and simplify your life.

Suggested Reading:

Further Reading:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lactose-intolerance

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Lactose-intolerance

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org

About the Author

Dr Rezahaider's picture
Author: Dr Rezahaider

I am a physician by profession. I dream to work on medicine in the near future. I have completed my residency three years back. Now, I am planning to obtain MRCP. This is very hard exam and surely, I am always scared of it. I have also decided to do my specialization on cardiology. Before medical school, I never thought that our heart could be so complex! So pray for me. I usually don't have enough time to write due to my studies. But whenever I get time I love to write. I write on medical related issues. I try to make it simple for you.

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