Lactose intolerance can range in severity from mild to severe depending on how much lactase the body makes. While still deficient in people that are lactose intolerant, the more it makes, the less severe the symptoms.
Speaking of symptoms, they can range from gas to throwing up. Intermediate symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Loose stools (sometimes foamy or containing blood) or diarrhea
- Gurgling sounds in the lower belly area
If feeling sick after drinking a glass of milk one time, you most likely are not lactose intolerant, however if you feel sick every time 30 minutes to two hours after consuming a product having lactose, then you could have a sensitivity to it.
To confirm your suspicions, your doctor can perform one of two tests or both. The first one is a breath test that checks for high levels of hydrogen in your breath. This is the best test and the least invasive.
The other test measures the amount of sugar in your blood after eating or drinking something containing lactose. On the day before the test, abstinence from food or drink is prescribed. On the day of the test, you’ll drink a liquid containing the milk sugar lactase. Then your blood will be tested every 30 minutes for two hours. If your blood sugar level does not rise, you are most likely lactose intolerant. Because dairy products are a substantial source of vitamins A, B12 and D, those that are lactose intolerant will have to replace these vitamins in the form of a supplement in order to avoid becoming deficient in them.
Milk allergy is different
Having an allergy to milk is different than being lactose intolerant. With a milk allergy, you’ll usually immediately notice a response of wheezing, hives and vomiting. Because a milk allergy is an autoimmune response, it can cause anaphylaxis shock – a life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical attention. People with a known milk allergy should carry an atropine injector like an Epi-pen with them in case of an accidental ingestion of milk or a milk product.
Seventy-five percent of adults have a decrease in lactose activity as they age, so lactose intolerance can happen as one gets older even if never having experienced it before. Right now 40 million Americans are lactose intolerant. If you are experiencing symptoms discussed above, see your doctor for the tests to confirm if you are sensitive or not. Your body will thank you for it.