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Lactose intolerance

Updated 21 September 2018

Lactose intolerance: when to see a doctor

Not quite sure if you are lactose intolerance or how to manage this digestive problem? Here's when to get professional help.

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Make an appointment with your doctor if you often experience gastrointestinal symptoms after eating or drinking dairy foods and beverages. It isn’t necessary to see a gastroenterologist for lactose intolerance, but your doctor might refer you to one if he or she feels that they’re not able to adequately help you.

Here’s how to prepare for your appointment:

  • When you book your appointment, ask if there’s anything you need to do before you see your doctor (e.g. restricting your diet).
  • Keep track of the number of servings of dairy foods you have in a day, including milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, cheese and ice cream. This is easily done by keeping a food and symptoms diary that includes everything you eat and drink and any symptoms you may be experiencing (even if they seem unrelated to lactose intolerance).
  • If you’ve tried cutting down your dairy intake to see if your symptoms improve, let your doctor know if your symptoms got better on the days you didn’t have diary.
  • Make a list of all the medications and supplements that you’re taking.
  • Write down any questions you would like to ask your doctor.

Dairy foods are rich in calcium, which helps to keep your teeth and bones healthy. If you’re severely lactose intolerant, and don’t eat any dairy, you may need to have regular bone-density tests. 

Reviewed by Kim Hofmann, registered dietitian, BSc Medical (Honours) Nutrition and Dietetics, BSc (Honours) Psychology. August 2018.