How to Find Out If You’re Lactose Intolerant: Recognizing the Signs 

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How to Find Out If You're Lactose Intolerant: Recognizing the Signs

Lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem that affects many people. It occurs when your body cannot digest lactose, a sugar in milk and other dairy products. 

While it’s not life-threatening, lactose intolerance can cause discomfort and embarrassment, especially when you are unaware of your condition. 

In this blog post, we will discuss how to recognize the signs of lactose intolerance and what steps you can take to manage your symptoms.

Know the Symptoms

If you’re experiencing digestive issues after consuming dairy products, it’s crucial to recognize the symptoms of lactose intolerance. Symptoms can vary depending on the severity of intolerance, but common ones include bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea. 

It’s important to note that symptoms can occur between 30 minutes to two hours after consuming lactose-containing foods.

Keep a Food Diary

One way to diagnose lactose intolerance is by keeping a food diary. In this diary, you will note everything you eat and drink, along with your symptoms. This information can help you identify patterns and determine which foods trigger your symptoms. 

It’s also recommended that you continue to consume dairy products during this process so your doctor can accurately diagnose the problem.

Take a Lactose Tolerance Test

If you develop lactose intolerance or you suspect lactose malabsorption intolerance, your doctor may recommend a lactose tolerance test. This test involves drinking a solution that contains lactose and measuring the body’s response. If your body cannot break down lactose, your doctor will diagnose you with lactose intolerance.

Experiment with Lactose-Free Products

If you are lactose intolerant, there are many lactose-free products available on the market. These products include milk, ice cream, cheese, and yogurt, among others. 

By experimenting with these products, you can still enjoy dairy without experiencing any uncomfortable symptoms. It’s important to remember to read labels carefully, as some products may still contain lactose.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you suspect that you are lactose intolerant, it’s recommended that you speak with your doctor. Your doctor can help you correctly diagnose the problem and offer guidance on managing your symptoms. 

They may also recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements since these nutrients are essential for good health, especially if you’re no longer consuming dairy products.

How can I test for lactose intolerance?

Now, how can you test drink milk for lactose intolerance? There are a few ways to do this:

  1. Home Observation: Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat and drink, and note when you have symptoms. If they come up after having dairy, you might be lactose intolerant.
  2. Lactose Tolerance Test: This is a medical test that measures your body’s response to a liquid that contains high levels of lactose.
  3. Hydrogen Breath Test: This test measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath after you consume a lactose-loaded beverage. Higher levels of hydrogen could mean you’re lactose intolerant.
  4. Stool Acidity Test: This test is often used for infants and young children. It measures the amount of acid in the stool, which can increase when lactose is not digested correctly.

What are the first signs of being lactose intolerant?

Lactose intolerance is when your body finds it hard to digest lactose, a sugar in milk and dairy products. When this happens, you might feel uncomfortable symptoms not long after eating or drinking dairy.

Here are some of the first signs you might notice:

  1. Stomach Pain: Do you feel pain or cramps in your belly soon after eating dairy? This could be a sign of lactose intolerance.
  2. Bloating: Do you feel full and swollen in your stomach area after having milk or other dairy foods? This bloating could be a clue.
  3. Gas: Passing gas more than usual can also be a symptom.
  4. Diarrhea: If you’re rushing to the bathroom after meals, especially after consuming dairy, this might be a sign.
  5. Nausea: Feeling sick to your stomach? This could be another symptom.

Remember, these signs can start anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours after you’ve eaten or drunk something with lactose in it.

Can I suddenly become lactose intolerant?

Have you ever enjoyed a glass of milk or a slice of cheese without any problems, but one day, you start feeling not so good after eating the same or other foods? You might be wondering, “Can I suddenly become lactose intolerant?” The short answer is yes, it can happen.

Lactose intolerance is when your body finds it hard to break down lactose, a sugar in milk and dairy products. This can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like stomach pain, bloating, gas, or diarrhea.

But here’s the thing: our bodies can change over time. Sometimes, people who used to have no problem with dairy find that they start to feel unwell after eating or drinking it. This could be because their body produces less lactase, the enzyme that helps us digest milk sugar and lactose. As we get older, it’s common for our bodies to make less of this enzyme.

So, if you’re starting to feel sick after having dairy, even if you have never had a problem before, you may have developed lactose intolerance.

But don’t worry! It’s not the end of the world. There are plenty of delicious, healthy options out there that are lactose-free. And remember, it’s always a good idea to chat with a healthcare professional if you feel unwell. They can help you figure out what’s going on and guide you on how to feel better.

Can you self-diagnose lactose intolerance?

You might be tempted to diagnose yourself, especially if you notice these symptoms after consuming dairy. While it’s great to be aware of your body and how it reacts to different food allergy, diagnosing people with lactose intolerance alone is more complex than it may seem.

Here’s why: Many other conditions can cause similar symptoms. Things like irritable bowel syndrome, stomach ulcers, or even stress can make your tummy feel upset. So, while your symptoms might point to lactose intolerance, they could also be caused by something else entirely.

So, how to find out if your lactose intolerant and what’s the best course of action? Reach out to a healthcare professional. They have the tools and knowledge to diagnose lactose intolerance accurately. They might use tests like a lactose tolerance test, hydrogen breath test, or stool acidity test. With their guidance, you can find out if you’re lactose intolerant and get advice on managing it.

How can I test for lactose intolerance at home?

Now, about testing at home. Here are a few methods:

  1. Diet Changes: Try switching to lactose-free milk for a few weeks or eating only cheeses that are low in lactose, like aged cheddar or Swiss. If your symptoms improve, you might be lactose intolerant.
  2. Home Test Kits: Some companies sell test kits you can use at home. These kits often involve drinking a special liquid and then using a breath tester to measure the hydrogen in your breath.
  3. Food Tracking: Keep a diary of what you eat and how you feel afterward. If you notice that symptoms often follow meals with dairy, it could be a sign of lactose intolerance.

However, it’s essential to know that while these methods might give you some clues, they can’t provide a definite answer. Other health issues can cause similar symptoms, so what seems like lactose intolerance could be something else entirely.

What are the three tests used to diagnose lactose intolerance?

  1. Lactose Tolerance Test: This test is often the first choice when diagnosing lactose intolerance. After fasting (not eating or drinking anything) overnight, you drink a liquid that contains a lot of lactose. Then, your blood sugar is tested several times over the next few hours to see how well your body is digesting the lactose. If your glucose levels don’t rise as they should, it could indicate that your body isn’t correctly digesting the lactose.
  2. Hydrogen Breath Test: This test also involves drinking a lactose-rich liquid. Afterward, you’ll blow into a bag or a tube at certain times. Suppose your breath has more hydrogen than usual. In that case, it suggests that your body isn’t fully digesting the lactose, and it’s being fermented by bacteria in your colon, which produces hydrogen.
  3. Stool Acidity Test: This test benefits babies and young children who can’t undergo other tests. The doctor checks the level of acidity in the stool because undigested lactose turns into lactic acid and other fatty acids, making the stool more acidic than usual.

What are the four types of lactose intolerance?

  1. Primary Lactose Intolerance: This is the most common type and is often a normal part of aging. As people age, their bodies start to produce less lactase, the enzyme that helps us digest lactose. When this happens, they may begin to experience symptoms of lactose intolerance.
  2. Secondary Lactose Intolerance: This type is usually the result of an illness, injury, or surgery that damages the small intestine. Once the underlying issue is treated, the lactose intolerance often improves.
  3. Developmental Lactose Intolerance: This type is seen in premature babies and usually improves as the baby grows and the small intestine matures.
  4. Congenital Lactose Intolerance: This is a rare form where babies are born with a lack of the lactase enzyme. It’s a genetic condition that passes from parents to children.


Lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem that affects millions of people worldwide. However, recognizing the signs of lactose intolerance and taking steps to manage your symptoms can help you lead a healthy and comfortable life. 

Whether it’s keeping a food diary, experimenting with lactose-free products, or speaking with your doctor, there are many ways to manage lactose intolerance. Remember, it’s essential to listen to your body, identify your triggers, and find a solution that works for you.

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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