Friday, August 8, 2014

Are You Lactose Intolerant?

If you suspect that you are lactose intolerant, you can head to the doctor or try a couple of simple options at home.  Most of these involve the concept of eating dairy to see how crummy you feel afterward - so if you suspect you might be intolerant, you likely have already tried some of these things.

  • THE DOC: Lactose Intolerance Test - This measures your glucose levels before and after drinking a lactose laden drink.  If your glucose levels do NOT rise, this is an indication of lactose intolerance.  Noteworthy: you will feel like you just consumed a bunch of lactose (and all the symptoms that implies) when you get done with this test because, well, you have!  AT HOME: You can unofficially try a version of this test.  Eat something high in lactose on an empty stomach and keep track of how you feel for the next several hours.

  • THE DOC: Hydrogen Breath Test - This measures your hydrogen levels in your breath after drinking a lactose laden drink.  Fermentation of lactose in the colon causes hydrogen to be released.  AT HOME: you can unofficially do the same test.  Eat some dairy and test the feeling/smell of your breath afterward.  It is not uncommon that this will be up to 1-2 hours afterwards.  

  • THE DOC: Stool Acidity Test (mostly used in infants only) - This measures the acidity in stool (caused by undigested, fermenting lactose) for those too young to complete either of the above tests.  AT HOME: don't do this at home - that would be gross; let the doc take care of stool samples!

The severity of your reaction of these tests will depend on how many enzymes you are still producing to break down the lactose.  This often decreases over time, making your symptoms more severe as the years go by.  Take my case, I used to be able to eat as much lactose as I wanted with very minimal consequences.  Over the years I had to cut back on the number of "servings" of dairy products in a given day.  I would feel symptoms such as bloating and loose stool (sorry, too much info I'm sure) if I had "too much."  I soon discovered Lactase pills (most common brand is Lactaid).
(*NO, I'm not being compensated by them)
I took one of these pills with my "first bite of dairy" - but at the time, only needed them on my second serving of dairy per day.  These are/were magic little pills!  I would still feel a smidgen bloated, but No nausea, bad breath, loose stool consequences!  Over time (we're talking years here), it gradually changed to me needing a Lactaid with any dairy I consumed.  Then only one serving per day with a lactase pill.  I would still feel symptoms from time to time - but I think that was more me not taking a Lactaid with all lactose foods (I'm still surprised at some foods that contain lactose).  I'm at the point now that even with a magic pill, I'm still feeling crummy at the end of the day.  Keep in mind - I feel far better if I take the Lactaid.  However, this continued degradation of my ability to process lactose has me wanting to try a lactose FREE diet rather than dealing with the consequences. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My 'Avoiding Lactose' Journey

My taste buds LOVE nearly all lactose foods!  My stomach, unfortunately, does not!
 I didn't notice this digestive disagreement until after college.  Even then it wasn't too big a deal; it is a common phenomenon that lactose intolerance gets worse with age.  I dealt with my early symptoms by trying not to have more than 2-3 servings of lactose laden foods per day.  Then it became that I would need a Lactaid pill (a pill you take with your first dairy bite - more on this to come later) with my second serving of dairy per day, then Lactaid pill with andy dairy consumption, then ONLY one dairy consumption per day with Lactaid, and sadly, lately, I'm trying to avoid lactose altogether.  In this blog I will post my journey into trying a lactose free lifestyle.
picture courtesy of
First and foremost, I feel like I should reiterate to you what I know.  Please don't lambast me if I get a tiny thing wrong - you are reading a personal blog about my interpretation of all the research.  If you want a doctor's expertise - GO TALK TO A DOCTOR!

I have found tons of info from reputable online sources, including, but not limited to:

The Basics

  • Lactose Intolerance is an inability (or reduced ability) to digest "milk sugar (lactose)" in foodstuffs.
  • Consequences of consuming lactose when lactose intolerance can vary greatly (from mild bad breath to nausea, diarrhea, and excruciating cramps).
  • Intolerance to lactose often worsens with age.
  • I'm told your doctor can test to see if you are lactose intolerant, but you can generally identify this yourself in a few simple steps.
  • More foods than I realized contain lactose!  Its those hidden lactose items that often leave me cursing in pain at the end of the day.