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Lactose Intolerance Guide

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Headaches, bloating or stomach cramps? If you’re affected by any of these, you might have lactose intolerance or dairy allergy (often called ‘Cows Milk Allergy’/CMA

What is Lactose Intolerance?

With symptoms ranging from mild to serious, both milk allergy and lactose intolerance blight people’s lives. Dairy Allergy (also known as Milk Allergy or Cow’s Milk Allergy) is the most prevalent food allergy in early childhood – affecting up to 3% of infants. Lactose intolerance is far more common. While diagnosis rates are unknown, it’s estimated that as many as 65% of the global population are lactose intolerant.

The two conditions are quite different – dairy allergy is more serious – but are often confused with each other. This is actually quite dangerous. It’s important to know the difference between ‘lactose-free’ and ‘dairy-free’ when reading the labels on food products.

 

What is Lactose?

Lactose itself is a sugar that’s present in milk. It’s a class of disaccharide, along with fructose and maltose, and comprises glucose and galactose sugars. 

 

What Causes Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to properly digest and metabolize lactose. This occurs due to insufficient amounts of a naturally occurring enzyme in the small intestine needed to break down lactose called lactase. Sufferers of lactose intolerance don’t have life-threatening symptoms – they’re less debilitating than those created by dairy allergies – but often suffer uncomfortable side effects.

 

Lactose Intolerance Symptoms

Symptoms of lactose intolerance usually include gastrointestinal issues and occur 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating dairy products. They include bloating, cramping and abdominal pain, diarrhoea, gas, and nausea.

 

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What Is Dairy Allergy (Or Milk Allergy)?

Dairy Allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a specific protein. It’s more serious than lactose intolerance because of its negative impact on the immune system. The bodies of sufferers react with various symptoms, ranging from mild to serious.

 

Dairy Allergy Symptoms

Sufferers experience hives, wheezing, vomiting, gastrointestinal issues (such as diarrhoea), or even anaphylaxis, in rare cases. According to FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education), dairy allergies are the most common food allergies in infants and young children.

 

How to Know if You’re Lactose Intolerant

Lactose intolerance can be difficult to diagnose. Doctors often ask people to keep a food diary and examine their family and dietary histories and prevalence of symptoms soon after meals. Physical exam and other invasive medical tests are also used. Diagnosing dairy allergy starts with a blood test then often involves follow-up procedures – including skin tests, hydrogen breath tests, lactose tolerance tests, milk tolerance tests and/or stool samples.

While diagnosing lactose intolerance or dairy allergies can often by complex and uncomfortable, The Intolerance Group’s one-step Dairy Allergy/Lactose Intolerance Tests offer the easiest, most convenient, and least invasive ways of finding out if you’re allergic to dairy or lactose intolerant.

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Lactose Intolerance Diets

Since Dairy Allergy and Lactose Intolerance have two different causes, there are slightly different ways of managing the conditions. Managing Dairy Allergy involves completely eliminating cow’s milk protein from your diet – even a tiny amount of cow’s milk protein could trigger an allergic reaction. Lactose Intolerance may also be initially managed by eliminating cow’s milk protein from your diet.

However, going entirely dairy-free is rarely needed in the long term. Some dairy products can often be carefully reintroduced into the diet – depending on the individual, following the guidance of a dietitian.  In either case, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet.

 

Lactose Intolerance Testing

For support with a potential lactose intolerance, we’d recommend taking the following steps:

  1. Get an intolerance test. This simple step can help you identify any intolerances that you’re likely affected by for life. Our comprehensive tests can check your sample against hundreds of allergens, and cover all of the common types of intolerance.
  2. If intolerant, eliminate lactose from your diet. Let this settle for a while by substituting lactose with sensible alternatives – for example replacing your dairy products with plant-based equivalents.
  3. Slowly reintroduce lactose into your diet – if you like. Most intolerances aren’t too severe, and may mean that you could digest small amounts of a substance without feeling any negative side-effects. This could be a winner if you’re a huge fan of cheese, for example.

If you think this process could improve your daily life, order an intolerance test now.

Lactose Intolerance FAQs

Here are some simple answers to popular questions around lactose intolerance.

What Foods Contain Lactose?

The most common foods typically derive from milk, and include:

  • Whey.
  • Cheese.
  • Butter.
  • Dry milk products.
  • Curds.

Can you Develop Lactose Intolerance?

Yes. Exactly when you could develop lactose intolerance varies from person to person, and it’s entirely possible this could happen as early as your 20s, or even mid-life.

What is Lactose Free Milk?

You may have heard of lactose free milk- but what exactly is that? Well, by simply adding lactase to regular milk, the lactose within it breaks down into simpler sugars that are easier to digest and may enable you to circumvent any intolerance challenges.

How to Stop Lactose Intolerance Pain?

If you’re suffering discomfort from lactose intolerance, we recommend removing lactose from your diet immediately until you’ve had time to properly assess whether you actually have an intolerance, and, if so, what quantity of lactose you can handle.

A lot of discomfort from lactose intolerance comes in the form of bloating and indigestion, which could be aided by simple breathing, walks, stretches, or over-the-counter relief.

What Does Lactose Intolerance Feel Like?

For the lactose intolerant, consuming lactose can cause discomfort. Typical symptoms include bloating, gas, diarrhoea and constipation- or in more severe cases headaches and vomiting.

Can Lactose Intolerance Go Away?

The simple answer to this is no. If you’re genetically intolerant to lactose and have reached adulthood, there’s virtually no chance of ‘outgrowing’ this intolerance type, meaning it’s important to take the proper steps to assess and adjust your diet and lifestyle.

How Does Lactose Intolerance Affect Your Poo?

If your body is unable to digest and break down lactose, the resulting diarrhoea is likely to be watery and unfirm. If you’re eating very small quantities of lactose, it could be worth keeping your fibre intake at a healthy level to counteract this.

What Lactose Intolerance Treatments Are There?

For the lactose intolerant, the best treatment is to simply remove this substance from your diet and replace it with sensible alternatives such as plant-based products and lactose-free equivalents.

Can I Get a Lactose Intolerance Test at Home?

Yes! Our home testing kits enable you to test yourself at home, then simply post your sample off to our lab for evaluation. You’ll then hear back shortly afterward, and can start taking control of your diet and wellbeing.

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