Sometimes nothing sounds better than a generous helping of ice cream. Of course, if you are lactose intolerant this may sound like a one-way ticket to gastrointestinal distress. Lactose intolerance is an issue in which the body has trouble digesting lactose, a naturally occurring substance found within dairy products. Since the lactose isn’t fully digested before it enters the intestines, this can lead to some rather unpleasant GI tract symptoms such as,
- Abdominal pains and cramping
- Stomach noises
- Diarrhea or watery stools
- Nausea or vomiting
While noticing these symptoms only once doesn’t necessarily mean that you are lactose intolerant, if you notice these symptoms every time you consume milk, yogurt, ice cream or other dairy products then you may be suffering from lactose intolerance. Just keep in mind that lactose intolerance is not the same as a food allergy.
If you suspect that you may be lactose intolerant, it’s a good time to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist. When you come in for a diagnostic evaluation there are several tests that may be performed to determine if your symptoms are caused by lactose intolerance. Tests include the hydrogen breath test, stool acidity test or lactose tolerance test. We will also ask specific questions regarding your symptoms.
Since there is no way to retrain your body so that it can digest lactose easily, you will have to make changes to your diet to ensure that you don’t experience these distressing symptoms. The most obvious change you can implement is to avoid milk and dairy products, particularly in large quantities. If you do want to consume dairy products do so while eating other foods, which may lessen your symptoms.
We know that giving up ice cream and dairy products can be a challenge; fortunately, there are so many different products on the market that do not contain lactose and are digestive-friendly for those with lactose intolerance. Some people also find relief in taking an over-the-counter lactase enzyme medication (e.g. Lactaid®) before consuming dairy products.
Lactose intolerance can vary from person to person. Some people only experience mild, self-limiting symptoms while others experience more severe problems. If you are experiencing intestinal issues every time you consume dairy products it’s a good time to have this problem checked out.