The Sneaky and Not So Subtle Signs Someone May Have Lactose Intolerance

Do you drink milk often, but then have stomach ache? Maybe you love ice cream, but it doesn’t seem to love you back. Not everyone is… Trista - December 31, 2021

Do you drink milk often, but then have stomach ache? Maybe you love ice cream, but it doesn’t seem to love you back. Not everyone is aware that they have lactose intolerance. Certain people probably have no idea what could be causing their intestinal distress regularly. It’s not until they pay close attention to their diet or take a trip to the doctor’s office that they realize there might be a problem. And that problem is lactose intolerance. However, what is it exactly? Why should people be aware of this condition? It’s important you understand the symptoms and causes of this condition. That way, you can learn how to enjoy a dairy-free life in order to minimize your discomfort in the future. Keep reading to learn the difference between someone who is lactose intolerant and those who have dairy allergies. Also, discover ways to create delicious meals without using milk, cheese, and other common dairy products. There are tasty alternatives to dairy so you can still eat a balanced diet that tastes good, too. But first, discover if you have a lactose inefficiency to begin with. If you feel as though you are dealing with these sign and symptoms, then you may have lactose intolerance. Consult with your doctor or a dietician about the next steps so you can live with this common condition in the most comfortable way possible.


24. What Is Lactose Intolerance?

People often think that lactose intolerance is an allergy reaction to milk or dairy products, but that is not the case. Although there is no cure for it, it is more than just an allergic reaction. It is a reaction to lactose, which is the sugar that exists in milk. For some people, when they’re younger, they are capable of producing lactase to break down this sugar so that it can be more easily absorbed into the body. Lactase is created in the small intestine, which is attached to the stomach to start working on the milk as soon as possible.

However, some people can’t produce this sugar, or they start to lose the ability as they get older. Lactose intolerance also affects people differently. For some people, milk and all milk products can produce symptoms, while others are only affected by milk. People’s bodies are different, so it’s confusing why some people would react this way and others don’t. So what are some of those awful symptoms that can occur after drinking milk or ingesting dairy products?


23. What Happens Inside The Body Of A Lactose Intolerant Person?

Because there is no lactase being created by the body to break down the milk sugar, it continues through the small intestine and into the large intestine and colon. The presence of sugars in this area of the body interacts with the natural bacteria that already live there and starts to ferment. This is why a lactose intolerant person will experience bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Some people may notice these symptoms right away, while it may take a few hours before others start to experience symptoms.

So how do you know if you’re lactose intolerant? The best thing you can do is to cut dairy and other milk products out of your diet for a few weeks to see if the symptoms go away on their own. If they don’t, the problem lies somewhere else, and you should see a doctor immediately. If the symptoms stop, you should slowly bring different dairy products back into your diet to see what your body doesn’t tolerate and what you’re okay with. In the end, if you discover that you’re lactose intolerant, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll just have to adjust your diet accordingly.


22. Are There More Things To Know About the Signs and Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance?

Because your body cannot make any more lactase, you are likely to feel several physical symptoms if you are lactose intolerant. The symptoms vary from person to person, but most are quite unpleasant. Individuals who are lactose intolerant often feel severe stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea and gas after consuming dairy products. It is essential to know that lactose intolerance is not the same as having a milk allergy. While digestive issues are similar symptoms, people with this kind of allergy may also experience wheezing, vomiting, and even anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.

Lactose intolerance is often hereditary. Primary lactase inefficiency is the most common kind of lactose intolerance. Maybe your parents gave it to you inherently through a genetic fault in the family line. The condition becomes more prevalent after a person becomes less reliant on dairy products in the daily diet. Even though most people stop drinking as much milk after two years old, lactose intolerance symptoms tend to not show up until adulthood. If you find yourself sick after consistently consuming some milk products, you may want to consider getting something to alleviate your discomfort to help you feel much better.


21. Should You Take OTC Medication For Lingering Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance?

People lactose intolerant typically begin to feel the symptoms about 30 minutes to two hours after they eat or drink the dairy product. The discomfort can last quite a while, too, up to 48 hours later. While the first line of defense is to avoid the foods entirely, several over-the-counter medications can alleviate and reduce the symptoms to help you feel better. What to take depends on the severity of the sign that you are feeling. For example, if you are experiencing excessive gas, you can take Gas X, also known as simethicone, to keep from feeling worse as your body processes the milk sugar.

Imodium, a loperamide, or Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) can lessen diarrhea symptoms. Going to the drug store route for a remedy depends on how badly affected you are from your stomach ailment. It may also depend on what you have to do that day. If you have an essential task at work or a paper to complete, you may need to take over-the-counter medication to power through your day. If your symptoms worsen, you may need to consult with your primary care physician for other options.


20. How Is Lactose Intolerance Different From A Dairy Allergy?

People often confuse the two with each other, but they’re not the same at all. Lactose intolerance is a reaction to the sugar in milk that can be developed over time or even go away on its own. On the other hand, a dairy allergy causes a reaction in other parts of the body, just not the lower intestine. Another difference is that lactose intolerance can develop later in life. At the same time, dairy allergies exist from birth, with most children under the ages of four showing dairy allergy symptoms.

Some symptoms they share in common are gas, bloating, nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. However, a dairy allergy also has additional symptoms in other areas of the body. That includes wheezing, a tightening of the throat, hives, a rash, and having trouble swallowing. For babies, they can reveal blood in the stool. So it would help if you had these additional signs looked at by a medical doctor to determine whether you have a true milk allergy. It’s the best way to protect your health so that you’re aware that you have to avoid milk and dairy products in the future.


19. What Are The Different Kinds of Lactose Intolerance?

Did you know that there are different kinds of lactose intolerance? To be more specific, there are four different kinds, all caused by various sources and different stages in a person’s life. The symptoms are exactly the same, but the cause of this condition appears that provide them with their other names. This first is primary lactose intolerance and is the most common form that exists. After the age of five, the human body no longer produces lactase to digest milk. As these levels drop, it becomes more difficult for the human body to digest lactose.

Next, there is secondary lactose intolerance, which results from some injury, illness, or surgery that has taken place. These incidents can affect the small intestine in some way, leading to it making less lactase. Diseases such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease reduce the levels of lactase being produced. Developmental lactose intolerance is the third form and mostly happens in premature babies. It only lasts for a short time after birth, however, and goes away on its own. Congenital lactose intolerance is the rarest form and occurs when there is no lactase being produced at all from birth. It’s a genetic disorder that the parents have passed on.


18. How Does A Doctor Diagnose Different Types of Lactose Intolerance

You are suspecting that the reason you feel unwell is from dairy in your diet. Now, you will need to figure out what kind of lactose intolerance you have. Because the ailment can take different forms, you will need to have your doctor confirm what kind of intolerance to lactose that you have. Primary care physicians have a few tests to determine the different types of lactose intolerance. The doctor will first ask you about your symptoms and suggest avoiding dairy products for a short time to see if your symptoms get better. Another diagnostic test is a hydrogen breath test, which is the most accurate in diagnosing lactose intolerance. If you cannot digest lactose, then bacteria will metabolize and produce hydrogen.

Another test is a blood sample, where the doctor will examine your fasting glucose levels. The doctor will instruct you to drink a liquid containing lactose. Your physician will then compare your blood glucose levels to the baseline and determine a diagnosis from those results. If you are considered lactose intolerant, then your blood sugar levels would have either risen slowly or not risen at all. Once your doctor has determined what is causing your pain, you will better understand your body. More importantly, you can gain knowledge about proper nutrition.


17. Are Certain People More Susceptible to Lactose Intolerance Than Others?

To be quite honest, most adults in the world, as many as 40%, stop producing lactase needed to digest milk sugars when they’re between two and five. Humans are the only mammals that continue to consume dairy into their adult lives, and we experience lactose intolerance because we’re not biologically built to do so. Lactose intolerance can be passed on through genetics, but it can also result from other diseases affecting the digestive system. It’s best to speak to your doctor to see if you’re genuinely lactose intolerant or if you have something else going on that you should know about.

Some ethnicities are more prone to being lactose intolerant than others. These include Mexicans, Asians, Indigenous Americans, and Africans. Lactose intolerance is also passed down through genes in these ethnicities since the diets were never heavily focused on dairy in the past. Moreover, since there’s no cure for lactose intolerance, these genes will continue to be passed on.


16. What Tests Are There For Lactose Intolerance?

If you’re not interested in weeding out your diet yourself, you can go to your primary care physician to see what tests can be performed to tell if you’re lactose intolerant or not. The more difficult test to do is a blood test, where blood is drawn and put through a battery of different tests to see if your body can produce lactase. This test isn’t usually performed because a much simpler test can be done to show where you stand with milk sugars.

And that test is the breath test. You wouldn’t think that it would be something this simple, as easy as breathing, but it is. A doctor will ask you to exhale, and it will be measured for hydrogen. If you have high levels of hydrogen in your breath, then you’re lactose intolerant. This is because lactose, when broken down in the colon instead of the small intestine, creates hydrogen gas. This gas is then absorbed into the blood and is transported to the lungs to be exhaled. This is a much less invasive test that people are sure to get behind.


15. What Are The Risks Associated With Lactose Intolerance?

There are specific factors that come into play that increase your risk of becoming lactose intolerant. It’s not to say that if you have all of these factors, you’re definitely not going to have dairy products, but there is an increased risk of not being able to ingest any milk or milk products if any of these factors are present in your life. The first significant factor is age. As you get older, you tend to become more lactose intolerant. As stated earlier, this is because mammals are not meant to ingest milk so long into their adult life.

The second factor is ethnicity; those who are of African, Hispanic, Indigenous American, or Asian descent are more likely to be lactose intolerant. A third factor involves certain diseases that affect the small intestine. These include diseases and conditions such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and bacterial overgrowth in the intestine. Lastly, specific cancer treatments can play a role in how prone you are to becoming lactose intolerant. Radiation therapy especially can cause intestinal issues, which can increase your risk of becoming lactose intolerant.


14. Are There Any Complications Associated With Lactose Intolerance?

Because dairy is both the primary source of calcium as well as lactose, avoiding milk will lead to a reduction of calcium in the body. Milk contains many other vital nutrients and minerals as well, including vitamins D and B12, A, zinc, and magnesium. As a result, a severe lack of these nutrients will start to affect the bones in the body. In fact, several diseases can result if you cut out all dairy from your diet that affect your health for the rest of your life.

The first is osteoporosis; the bones become too thin and weak and become more prone to breaking. You tend to suffer from more fractures and broken bones, which can be extremely painful to deal with. The second disease is osteopenia; this is where the mineral density of the bones becomes too low. Without treatment, this will eventually lead to osteoporosis. The third disease is malnutrition; some vitamins and minerals require others to be more easily absorbed into the body. Without the nutrients present in milk, the other food you’re eating could not be as adequate as it should be. When you’re malnourished, it will take much longer for wounds to heal, you’ll feel more exhausted throughout the day, and you’re more likely to experience depression.


13. What Can I Do If I’m Lactose Intolerant?

The great thing about lactose intolerance is that you don’t have to do much to remedy the situation. All you have to do is avoid milk and some dairy products. That may be a little difficult if you do have favorite foods you can’t give up. However, thankfully, there are a lot of lactose-free versions of foods you already eat out there. It just takes a little research to find them. Be prepared that they’re not going to taste exactly the same, but if it saves you from some discomfort, then it’s definitely worth the switch.

There are also some supplements that you can take, like Lactaid, that will help you to break down the lactose in milk. This will counteract the bloating effects and gas you will experience so that you can still enjoy milk and other dairy products out there. If you’re interested in this kind of solution, then be sure to have a conversation with your doctor to see if it’s the right option for you. You don’t want there to be a possible interaction with any medication or other foods you’re taking.


12. Are There Alternatives To Dairy?

The big thing about dairy is that it is quite rich in calcium, and without it, people are worried that they will start to develop weak bones. However, there are plenty of other calcium-rich foods that you can add to your diet to counteract the elimination of milk from your diet. These include tofu, dried beans, almonds, fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, and kale, just to name a few. Basically, consider adding more dark green, leafy vegetables to your diet to help maintain the levels of calcium that you need in your diet.

There are also milk alternatives out there, like soy milk, rice milk, and almond milk. These have been fortified with calcium to help people meet this deficiency. It would be best if you kept an eye out for other foods that may have hidden lactose in them as well. Some examples include dried vegetables, snack foods, candy, and certain medications. Many birth control pills and medicines to treat gas and stomach acid can also contain lactose. Be sure to read the ingredients before you take them. You don’t want to end up with horrible side effects all over again.


11. What Are Some Other Ways To Keep My Lactose Intolerance Under Control?

If you’re one of those people who really can’t afford to cut all dairy out of their diet, there are some other ways you can manage it, but it requires a lot of hard work and patience on your hands. What you’re going to need to do is to keep a food diary. That means taking account of every food that you eat and recording how it makes you feel afterward. You’ll have to keep track of how much you ate when you ate it and when you first started to feel symptoms afterward.

This way, you can figure out which foods you can still eat over time without having to cut out all milk products from your diet. This will provide you with the pattern you need to determine which foods are really not good for you and which ones you can still eat without too many adverse effects on your body. Are you still having reactions even though you are careful about your dairy intake? Well, it means that you’re going to have to cut it out entirely. Alternatively, you could rely on a lactose supplement to help you digest the milk sugar.


10. You Can Take Control Of Your Intolerance By Making Your Own Meals

The option is not always available, but you might have to learn to cook your own meals almost every day to minimize your symptoms. Going out and buying food that’s already made puts you at risk because you would have no way of knowing what ingredients go into your meal. Furthermore, if you’ve ingested lactose while you’re at work, you may end up having to spend a lot of time in the bathroom. That could land you in a bit of trouble.

Instead, you could learn to brown bag it. Make your meals at home, where you’re aware of everything going into it, and take it to work with you. It’s a lot of extra effort. You’ll have to get up earlier in the morning to get it done. However, at least you’re not running the risk of having to endure intestinal distress throughout the rest of the day. There are plenty of lactose-free recipes out there, too. Please don’t think that your diet is going to shrink to just vegetables and meat immediately. There are alternatives out there to help you make even your favorite desserts that would have contained milk. Now you can make them guilt-free that will keep your tummy happy.


9. Look At Lactose-Reduced or Lactose-Free Products

You would be surprised to discover that there are actually lactose-free kinds of milk out there. It’s cow’s milk with the lactose removed. Of course, because of this, the milk will not taste the same, so it’s either something you’re going to have to get used to, or you’re going to have to consider other options on the table, like almond or soy milk. Thankfully, if you can get used to the taste, lactose-free milk still has the same amount of calcium, so your bones can still thrive from having this in your daily diet.

There are lactose-free cheeses and yogurts as well if these foods also affect you. Of course, you may have to look in a different section of the grocery store to find these alternatives. Be prepared for them to be a little more expensive, which can add up your monthly grocery bills. However, the choice is entirely up to you when it comes to your health and what you’re willing to change in your life to feel comfortable daily.


8. The Kind Of Cheese You Eat Could Make A Difference

If you’re one of those affected by cheese, you’ll have to consider your options. There are actually cheeses out there that contain less lactose than others. Soft cheese like ricotta and cream cheese tend to have higher levels of lactose, while aged, harder cheese like parmesan and sharp cheddars contain much lower levels of lactose. So you don’t have to go without all cheese in your diet.

You may also want to look at cheeses made from sheep or goat’s milk instead, as these also contain low levels of lactose. So you can still have all of that creamy goodness of soft cheese without the intestinal distress. But as always, keep an eye out for your symptoms if you’re still not feeling great after consuming any of these suggested cheeses. It may mean you have to give these up as well, unfortunately.


7. How Long Do Lactose Intolerance Symptoms Last?

It’s not a very serious condition, but it can leave you feeling uncomfortable all day long. The severity of the symptoms is dependent on how much lactose you’ve consumed in one period and how much lactase your body can produce; the less it makes, the stronger the symptoms will be and the longer they’ll last. The majority of symptoms resolve themselves within a period of forty-eight hours but can persist if you continue to consume lactose during that period. Bloating can resolve much sooner if you take certain medications to alleviate the sensation itself.

Nausea kicks in at least two hours after eating lactose, which can leave you feeling pretty awful. The other symptoms, such as diarrhea, gas, and pain, can onset at any time and are probably more immediate than the other symptoms, depending on how your body handles lactose. Diarrhea may be quick, or it may take some time to present itself. The pain may be persistent the entire time and appears with both gas and bloating, so you may find yourself trying to alleviate these three symptoms simultaneously.


6. You May Want To Consult With A Dietician

Do you have to be careful about what food you eat? That daunting task can be troublesome. Not only that, it can also be stressful. Are you ready to alleviate some of those problems? All you have to do is go talk to the experts instead. Speak with a dietician as soon as possible. That way, you can get the rundown on what foods you should and shouldn’t be eating. Plus, you can discover alternatives. A dietician can teach you how to manage your symptoms more healthily. They only want to help you and set you on the right path to being both happy and healthy at the same time.

After reading this, does a dietician seem like a good choice for you? You may want to speak to your primary care physician first. Why? Because they can set you up with the right person. It will save you time of having to hunt one down yourself. Understand that it will take a few appointments before you’re set up with a diet plan that’s right for you. Please, exercise patience throughout the process. Besides, you want to get the most out of it so you can start feeling better.


5. What Can You Do To Combat The Conditions That Arise From Lactose Intolerance?

Because you need dairy to take care of your bones, they will start to suffer. However, there are other things you can do to strengthen your bones that will reduce your chances of broken bones and fractures in the future. First, you can do what is called a bone density test. This measures your bone density in the different areas of your body to detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs. Getting some exercise is also a great life choice to make, as it helps strengthen the muscles connected to your bones to reduce the chances of bones breaking.

You can make other lifestyle choices to reduce your chances of fractures, such as quitting smoking as well as reducing your daily intake of alcohol. Those who drink and smoke heavily are prone to more bone loss due to poor nutrition. There are some medications a person can take to combat bone loss, too, such as taking certain calcium supplements, going through hormone therapy (especially in women going through menopause), and bisphosphonates.


4. Consider Eating Other Food On The Side When Consuming Dairy

You may think that having dairy with other food will only cause your intestinal distress to be worse, but most people have reported that the opposite is true. In fact, they’ve said that they’ve experienced reduced symptoms when they ingest dairy with other food that doesn’t contain lactose. For example, instead of drinking a glass of milk, have a few pieces of wheat toast with it so that your intestines have some element to work on. Food tends to put all of the intestines into overdrive so that they can break down all of the incoming substances instead of only drinking milk.

You may have to experiment to see which foods work best at reducing your symptoms when coupled with dairy. You may be surprised; having dairy with certain foods may even eliminate your symptoms! Keep an eye on these, and be sure to include them in your diet more frequently… but only if they’re still healthy for you! Again, this is why the food diary is essential, as you’ll have an accurate record of what does and doesn’t work for you.


3. Always Keep Your Doctor In Mind

Have you already taken some of these steps to help improve your reaction to lactose? That is great news! Nevertheless, you should still keep an eye on your health. Are you no longer experiencing bloating, gas, and pain? Thank goodness! However, you should look out for other symptoms that reveal that there’s a more serious problem going on. For example, if you have a sudden change in bowel habits, take note. Does heartburn now hit and keep you from sleeping? Are you unable to keep down any food? These are all concerns. Furthermore, if there is blood present in your stool or vomit, you should go to the hospital to receive treatment.

Other diseases have similar symptoms to lactose intolerance that require different treatment other than avoiding lactose. Knowing what these diseases are and getting tested for them can make a difference in the long run. You can get you the treatment options you need to have a happier, healthier life. Speak to your doctor if you are worried about any aspect of your digestion issues. That way, you can take care of the problem before it becomes more serious.


2. Consider Going Probiotic

There’s one dairy-related product that you should keep in your diet that’s not going to make your stomach cramp up all day! That would be the plain, low-fat yogurt. Yogurt is known for its probiotic culture, which helps your gut bacteria flourish to aid digestion issues. Nevertheless, did you know that probiotic yogurt can also help the body to break down lactose, thereby reducing your symptoms? It’s more likely than you think! Just one cup may be enough to help, and you’re still getting all of that yummy calcium that it contains.

Probiotic yogurt has been a godsend for those who suffer from digestive issues. That goes double for those due to other underlying conditions, diseases, medications, or treatments. For example, antibiotics are good at treating bacterial infections. However, it does so by attacking all bacteria in the body, including the good ones. By adding some probiotics to your diet, you can help to counteract this. In doing so, you will bring the body back to its normal functioning state. Did you just discover you are lactose intolerant? It will be in your best interest to invest in some probiotic yogurt.


1. Finding Support for Lactose Intolerance

Just because you are lactose intolerant does not mean you have to give up dairy entirely; you just have to monitor it closely and take everything in moderation. It may take some time, but you can start to understand your body better even if you are lactose intolerant. You pay attention to your body’s natural cues and figure out how much you can eat or drink without feeling the severity of your symptoms. Few individuals have such severe symptoms that they have to cut out dairy altogether. You will know the right amount and can determine from there how much you can consume.

Milk and dairy products have many vital nutrients, and if you are lactose intolerant, you will need to find different ways to consume them. You could take calcium supplements. You may also want to increase your intake of other foods that contain calcium to make sure you are getting your recommended amount. These foods include broccoli, leafy vegetables, canned salmon, fortified cereals, oranges, and almonds. You can also try different milk substitutes, including soy, almond, oat, and rice milk. You will also need to be mindful that you are getting enough vitamin D. Why? Because people often get this vitamin supply from fortified milk. You can eat more eggs or take a vitamin supplement. Your body also naturally produces vitamin D when you are out in the sun. The bottom line is that you will want to take care of yourself and make mindful choices that impact your overall health.