Dairy Difficulties

One of the most frustrating and often misunderstood conditions is lactose intolerance. While for many folks it’s equated with uncontrollable gas, the fact is that lactose intolerance can be much more serious than that. For example, some people that are lactose intolerant may find they suffer from severe nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping if they’re exposed to even a little bit of lactose.

To understand a little bit about this potential cause for nausea, we need to understand exactly what lactose intolerance is and how it works.

Here are some quick facts about lactose intolerance that you should know:

  • Approximately 30 million American adults have lactose intolerance, although for many it’s mild.
  • Lactose intolerance is more common among adults of Asian, African and Native American descent. It’s not as common among people from northern and western Europe.
  • Lactose intolerance can come as a result of bowel surgery, an infection of the small intestine caused by parasites, viruses or bacteria, or certain intestinal diseases like celiac sprue.
  • Most people with lactose intolerance will experience symptoms within about 30 minutes of having a milk product, though for some it can take up to two hours.
  • A number of other conditions can produce the same types of symptoms, such as nausea, that lactose intolerance can produce. Irritable bowel syndrome is an example of one such condition.
  • If your doctor suspects you are lactose intolerant, you may have a number of tests including a lactose-hydrogen breath test, a stool pH, or a lactose tolerance test.
  • The best treatment for lactose intolerance is to avoid lactose. Most people that have lactose intolerance can consume between one quarter and one half cup of milk at a time without reacting.
  • There are a number of milk products that have less lactose or may be easier to digest, including buttermilk, cheeses, yogurt and goat’s milk. A number of lactose-free options are available over the counter, as well.

If you suspect you have lactose intolerance, talk to your doctor. She can help diagnose the problem, and provide you with additional recommendations about avoiding symptoms as well as about how to treat severe symptoms like nausea.