Do you worry that you could be lactose intolerant?

Maybe when you drink milk or eat products with milk in them, you end up feeling bloated or ill, and you wonder if the problem is with the ability to break down lactose.

According to Johns Hopkins University, being lactose intolerant is so common nowadays that it’s no longer a disorder. In fact, it is considered “normal” for adults to no longer be able to digest lactose as they age.

In this blog post, we’ll go over some of the key signs that you are lactose intolerant, as well as discuss what lactose actually is.

What is Lactose?

Before we discuss some of the signs that you are lactose intolerant, we should discuss what lactose is.

Lactose itself is a type of sugar found in most dairy products. As such, being lactose intolerant doesn’t necessarily mean you’re allergic to dairy, as you can often find dairy products that have been produced free of it.

Some babies are born with congenital lactose intolerance, meaning their bodies are unable to break down the lactose in dairy products.

Most people who are lactose intolerant develop it over time. The human body breaks down lactose with an enzyme known as lactase. The cells in the lining of the small intestine are responsible for creating them.

As people age, their ability to produce lactase can wane, which will make them lactose intolerant.

Is It Serious?

Lactose intolerance is not necessarily serious, in that it is not an allergy to lactose. This means that you won’t need to carry around an EpiPen or another emergency device just because you’re allergic to lactose.

Instead, you’ll learn to avoid lactose strategically. This may include taking pills that block lactose before you eat food with lactose in it. It may also include modifying your diet so it is free of lactose.

Worry not, lactose intolerance itself is not fatal.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

Below are some of the classic symptoms of lactose intolerance. This list, however, is not exhaustive and it is important if you experience these symptoms to see your doctor. Your doctor will need to rule out more serious GI disorders before diagnosing you with lactose intolerance.

1. Diarrhea That Last More Than Five Days

If you have diarrhea that lasts more than five days, especially frequently, it is possible that you are lactose intolerant. If this comes on just one time in your life, it is less likely an issue of lactose. But, if you have it often, lactose intolerance may be the culprit.

2. Stomach Pain That Gets Worse (or Sometimes Gets Better) When You Eat

If your stomach frequently hurts after eating dairy or products with lactose in it, looking into lactose intolerance as a cause is a good idea. For many people, this is the main symptom, and the pain can feel debilitating.

Stomach pain can also make you feel “bloated” or give you a full feeling, even when you haven’t eaten all that much.

3. You Feel Sick Even When You Eat Non-Dairy Foods

You may think you’re not lactose intolerant because you may often feel sick when you eat food that doesn’t contain lactose. While with some foods, it’s obvious you’re consuming it (i.e. with milk or cheese or yogurt), lactose sneaks its way into many types of foods.

As such, you may think you’re not lactose intolerant at all. But it is important to check the labels of everything you eat and ask at restaurants. You may believe you’re not lactose intolerant even when you are.

Pay attention to when you feel sick after meals and when you don’t. You may even want to keep a diary to help you make better judgments.

4. You’re Gassy

Along with feeling bloated, individuals who are lactose intolerant are also often quite gassy. But, there’s one catch for gas associated with lactose intolerance: it doesn’t have a smell.

So, if you’re gassy and making everyone around you feel sick, the problem is likely attributed to something else. But, if you’re gassy and no one else knows about it, it’s like due to lactose intolerance.

If you’re lactose intolerant, you’ll usually get this feeling right after meals. It may last a little while, but it’ll come on as your food is digesting.

5. Age

The older you get, the more common it is to become lactose intolerant. Most people who don’t have it as a congenital condition begin to develop it after the age of 2. But, as your body ages, you may be one of the unlucky ones who doesn’t continue to make lactase in their small intestine.

Simply getting older can be a risk of lactose intolerance, so it’s important to note how your body is changing as you grow and change while you age.

Signs You Are Lactose Intolerant: Now You Know, What Do You Do About It?

If you think you’re lactose intolerant, your doctor can order one of two tests. One is a hydrogen breath test, and the other is a blood test to look at your blood sugar after you’ve eaten lactose. This will be able to help confirm or deny if lactose is the source of your stomach woes.

The signs you are lactose intolerant listed in this article are not exhaustive, but they present some of the most common symptoms. If you’re concerned about your health, you can schedule an appointment with 24/7 labs and keep your health on track.