Many of us know what lactose intolerance means simply because of it’s easy to understand name: lactose intolerance. Means intolerant to lactose. Simple enough, right? Well, what it’s not that simple? What if I told you that the actual prevalence of lactose intolerance is hard to know? Would you believe me? Let’s get to it because we’re having a lesson! I’ve teamed up with the National Dairy Council to provide three educational posts on lactose intolerance and three lactose friendly recipe posts. I hope you enjoy this series over the next two months, finding it informative and delicious! (Disclosure: These are compensated posts.)
It’s interesting to note, that I get asked about lactose intolerance quite a bit as a dietitian who is gluten intolerant. Many times, symptoms are similar for the two intolerances, which can lead to a confusing situation. For this reason alone, I always recommend getting the proper diagnostic testing performed to determine what is really happening in your body. The self-reported rate of lactose intolerance in the US is 12 percent, but those who think they have lactose intolerance may incorrectly self-diagnose (this happens with gluten intolerance too). This self-diagnosis can often lead to masking a different intestinal disorder, placing yourself an unneeded lactose-restricted diet, and possibly consuming a diet inadequate in calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients. In fact, lactose intolerance often doesn’t equal dairy avoidance.
The symptoms of lactose intolerance can include diarrhea, abdominal discomfort/pain, bloating, and gas after the ingestion of lactose. Symptoms may arise when the body does not absorb lactose (the sugar found naturally in milk and other dairy products), which can occur due to the inactivity or deficient levels of the lactase enzyme that breaks own the sugar, otherwise known as malabsorption.Lactose is normally digested in the small intestine, but when lactase levels are low, lactose is transported intact to the colon. The symptoms mentioned above are a result of bacterial fermentation of this undigested lactose.
There are a number of ways to test of lactose intolerance, but while doing my reading it seems the preferred method is up for debate. Lactose intolerance tests include: hydrogen breath test (one of the most common and debated the best test), lactose intolerance blood test, stool acidity test, intestinal biopsy sample, and genetic testing for the polymorphism that is linked to lactase non-persistence.
To receive the clinical diagnosis of lactose intolerance the NIH states that both documented lactose malabsorption and the presence of symptoms are required. If you think you’re lactose intolerant, talk to your doctor or dietitian.
In my next post, I will be talking about how to alleviate lactose intolerance symptoms. Many people with lactose intolerance continue to successfully include dairy in their diets and I will be describing some practical tips as well as providing a list of dairy products lower in lactose levels! Let me know if you have any questions so far!
- NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement: Lactose Intolerance and Health (Accessed May 2013)
- NIH/NDDIC National Digestive Diseases: Lactose Intolerance (Accessed May 2013)
- NIH/NLM: Lactose Intolerance Tests (Accessed May 2013)
- Today’s Dietitian: Demystifying Lactose Intolerance (Accessed May 2013)
National Dairy Council Resources
- NDC Website (FAQs, presentations, handouts, recipes for lactose intolerance)
- Pinterest (lactose intolerant friendly recipes)
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of National Dairy Council.