Updated 06 August 2018

Here’s how to tell if you’re lactose-intolerant

It’s possibly one of the most uncomfortable feelings – that rumbling, bubbly sensation in your stomach that feels as if it’s boiling.

It’s possibly one of the most uncomfortable feelings – that rumbling, bubbly sensation in your stomach that feels as if it’s boiling.

Not to mention the painful indigestion that often follows – as if a ball is moving up and down your oesophagus.

If you experience these nagging symptoms, especially after ingesting milk-based food products, chances are good that you’re lactose-intolerant.

“Bloating, gas and pain in your abdomen are symptoms of lactose intolerance,” says Kirby Hendricks, a dietician at Alex Royal Diets. “Lactose is the naturally-occurring sugar found in milk and most dairy products.”

Other symptoms include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Rumbling or gurgling sounds in the stomach.

“The signs normally develop within a few hours of consuming food or drink that contains lactose,” Hendricks says. “However, keep in mind that the severity of your symptoms and when they appear usually depend on the amount of lactose you’ve consumed.”

So what causes lactose intolerance? The condition is caused by a deficiency of the intestinal enzyme lactase, explains. Lactase divides lactose into two small sugars, glucose and galactose, which allows lactose to be absorbed from the intestine.

“The most common high-lactose foods are milk, milkshakes and other milk-based beverages,” Hendricks says.

Other high-lactose foods include:

  • Whipping cream
  • Coffee creamer
  • Ice cream
  • Sherbet
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Puddings, such as custard
  • Cream-based soups
  • Cream sauces
  • Foods made with milk.

Is there a cure? Unfortunately not, Hendricks says – but there are treatments that could help sufferers to safely consume milk products.

“Dietary supplements containing lactase may help you digest lactose if you take the tablets immediately after consuming dairy,” she says.

“Most people are able to control their symptoms by making changes to their diet through cutting down on or avoiding sources of lactose, and replacing them with lactose-free alternatives.”





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