Lactose intolerance is the inability of your body to process lactose. Dealing with lactose intolerance is all about knowing which foods are most likely to affect you and eliminating them from your diet.

Dairy products on wooden table, selective focus, shallow deep of field

Diagnosing lactose intolerance

Lactose is a sugar found in milk. An enzyme known as lactase breaks down lactose in the intestine. When the body doesn’t have enough lactase, as lactose travels through the gut, it will discharge gas and fermentable products, thus leading to pain and diarrhea. The adult version of lactose intolerance can come on as you age.

A test that can determine if you are lactose intolerant is called hydrogen breath test in which patients receive 25 grams of lactose to drink, and their breath is measured over several hours. If lactose passes into the colon and gets fermented, the levels of hydrogen in the breath rise, indicating a case of lactose intolerance.

It makes it more simple if you stop consuming lactose-containing foods, and keep a food diary to find out if symptoms go away.


What to avoid if you are lactose intolerant

Lactose is abundant in milk, cream cheese, ice cream, sour cream, cottage cheese and certain soft cheeses. But  not all dairy is the same. Yogurt for instance, contains bacteria that break down lactose, though it does not mean it’s lactose-free.


Know your body

Luckily there are a lot of alternatives to dairy products, like almond-milk or soy-milk products.

Hard cheese, in addition to those used in pizza such as mozzarella and parmesan, have very low levels of lactose. If pizza upsets your stomach, another ingredient might be the reason for your lactose intolerance. A lot of food during one sitting may cause the low lactose levels in these cheeses to add up and lead to symptoms.

You can also try drinking lactose-free milk or taking supplements to help you digest lactose. These products, however, have their limits.

Lactose-free milk has a distinctly sweeter taste than regular milk which is not to everyone’s liking. Knowing the right balance between the supplement you are taking and the amount of lactose you consume is important as you may not get enough lactase to digest the lactose before it hits the intestine.

You may not have to avoid lactose completely to avoid symptoms, with or without supplements, but you must pay close attention to your diet to see what causes you problems and what doesn’t, portion size included. So, you may be fine by eating one pancake made with milk, just don’t have five of them.

However, if symptoms persist, you should be aware that giving up lactose is the best way to limit your symptoms.