Lactose intolerance can be an uncomfortable, sometimes debilitating condition which affects 1 in 20 Caucasians and is even more common in the Asian, Middle Eastern and the Australian Aboriginal populations. In severe cases the symptoms can impact and limit our day to day activities. If not managed correctly, lactose intolerance may also affect dietary choices and therefore overall nutrition status. So if you think you have lactose intolerance, it is important that you have a good understanding of the condition.
At The Breath Test Lab we can perform a simple, non-invasive breath test for lactose intolerance. The process is easy and doesn’t require a doctor’s referral. You can book your test online or contact us at any time for more information.
Read on for more details about lactose and how we test for lactose intolerance.
What is lactose?
Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar composed of two smaller sugars, glucose and galactose, and can be found in common foods such as cow’s milk, some cheese and other dairy products. As well as containing lactose, these foods contain great amounts of calcium which is important for bone health in needed to help prevent osteoporosis.
What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance describes a group of symptoms which develop when the sugar lactose is not digested and absorbed.
Lactose intolerance occurs when our body doesn’t produce the enzyme lactase which breaks lactose into its component sugars (which are much more easily absorbed!). As a result, the undigested lactose travels to the large intestine, where the naturally occurring bacteria start to ferment it. By-products of their fermentation include hydrogen & methane gases which are a contributing factor to the symptoms of lactose intolerance. The degree of lactose intolerance differs from person to person and depends on the amount of lactase in our bodies, however most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate a small amount of lactose without developing symptoms.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance can include nausea, bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and flatulence.
How do you develop lactose intolerance?
Interestingly, worldwide, more people are lactose intolerant than not! Lactose is an important component of milk which nourishes all young babies, so the default setting is that we can all digest lactose from birth. However, most people (and most mammals) lose the ability to digest lactose as we age, as we transition off of milk, thus developing lactose intolerance.
Other people may develop it as a result of a medical condition such as severe gastroenteritis or coeliac disease. In this case, the lactose intolerance is usually temporary and lactose can be reintroduced later on, once the gut has recovered.
How do I know if I am lactose intolerant?
Before you start unnecessarily removing lactose from your diet, get yourself tested! Up until now, testing has required invasive procedures such as endoscopy or multiple blood tests. The Breath Test Lab has made testing easier than ever and can be done by a series of breath tests taken over 2 hours or so after consuming a lactose-containing drink. The process is easy, non-invasive and doesn’t require a doctor’s referral. Click here to learn how our test works.
For accurate results, Hydrogen & Methane Breath Testing requires special preparation on the day prior to the test and fasting on the day of the test. Our website explains how to prepare for your Hydrogen & Methane Breath Test.
Once you get your diagnosis, you can modify your diet accordingly to ensure you minimise any troubling symptoms while still receiving adequate amounts of calcium. At the Breath Test Lab, we recommend that you do this by consulting with an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).