Lactose intolerance is one of the most prevalent of the problems affecting the digestive system. The condition is caused by the body being unable to make lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose. Lactose is a natural sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance is mostly inherited, but other environmental factors such as infections in the intestines can cause it. People with lactose intolerance tend to ignore the symptoms mainly due to lack of knowledge about the condition. How can you know if your body lacks the ability to digest lactose? Here are five signs you may be lactose intolerant.
1. If you experience symptoms characteristic of lactose intolerance
Symptoms of the condition, and which you should look out for include:
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Gas or bloating
- Loose stool
- Rumbling or gurgling sounds coming from your abdomen
The symptoms may be severe or mild; it depends on the amount of dairy product foods you have taken. If your daily meals contain milk or milk products, the symptoms may appear on a daily basis.
2. If you feel sick almost immediately after taking dairy products
If you have lactose intolerance, you will often get an unpleasant feeling moments after meals. It can be as soon as 30 minutes after, or as long as after 2 hours. The ‘sick’ feeling is mostly accompanied by the other symptoms of lactose intolerance. The feeling clears many hours later once the food causing it has passed through the digestive system.
3. If you feel better after a period of not taking dairy products
If you eliminate dairy from your daily intake of foods and notice a change, then its highly possible that you have a problem digesting the lactose in them. But the reprieve should only be in the digestive system, and in other parts of the body or symptoms. Lactose intolerance is different from allergy to dairy products, and having allergic symptoms disappear after doing away with dairy shouldn’t confuse you.
4. If you have had the condition known as irritable bowel syndrome ( ibs)
Apart from the primary genetic cause for lactose intolerance, other secondary causes include the ever common irritable bowel syndrome. If IBS has been troubling you for long, chances are that you have lactose intolerance. The two are linked, plus some other conditions that affect the intestines such as Crohn’s disease. The symptoms of lactose intolerance and IBS are also similar, and a medical checkup would be necessary to ascertain if you have both.
5. If you’re genetically predisposed
Genetic predisposition includes having cases of lactose intolerance in your family line. Being a congenital condition, you may want to get tested for it if it has existed in the family and you’re experiencing symptoms related to it.
Another genetic factor that would put you at risk is if you’re are of Native American, African, or Asian origin. These people are known to have a higher prevalence of lactose intolerance.
Getting tested is the surest way to diagnose lactose intolerance. The condition is not curable, but there are ways to manage it. Better still, eliminating dairy products from your diet and substituting them with other foods provides relief.