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Lactose Intolerance Test

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body is not able to digest lactose, which is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. This condition is caused due to the deficiency of an enzyme called lactase, which is produced by the cells which line the small intestines. Lactase breaks sugar down into simpler, absorbable compounds like galactose and glucose. These compounds are then absorbed by the blood stream easily.
Most people who suffer from lactose intolerance are able to digest some amounts of lactose in their diet. A lot of times the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may be confused with lactose intolerance.

Unfortunately, a lot of people also mistake lactose intolerance for allergies to cow milk. While allergies to cow milk are caused by a protein present in the milk and can be life threatening even if a drop of milk is consumed, lactose intolerance is not life threatening and may simply cause severe digestive distress. The causes of milk allergy and lactose intolerance are completely different from each other, and so are the symptoms of lactose intolerance and milk allergies.

Lactose intolerance is an extremely common condition and is usually experienced when a person steps into adulthood. People who are lactose intolerant tend to feel uncomfortable for thirty minutes to two hours immediately after consuming any dairy products. Depending on the amount of milk and milk products consumed, the symptoms can range from very mild to very severe.

Lactose Intolerance Testing

Lactose intolerance testing includes two different tests. Since the disorder cannot be diagnosed by examining the symptoms alone, there is a need to test before the exact nature of the disorder can be ascertained. Not all kinds of digestive distress can be caused due to lactose intolerance. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are also similar and therefore the tests become all the more necessary. Lactose intolerance diagnosis is usually based on the results of the following two tests.

  • Hydrogen Breath Test: With this breath test lactose intolerance can be easily ascertained. For this test to be performed, the patient is first given a beverage which is loaded with lactose. Once the patient drinks this beverage, the breath is checked after regular intervals. The presence of hydrogen is checked for in the breath. Normally, there is very little quantity of hydrogen present in the breath. However, the quantity of hydrogen in the breath of a lactose intolerant person is very high immediately after consuming lactose. Before this lactose intolerance test is performed, it is important to check with the doctor about any kind of foods and medications that could affect the test.
  • Stool Acidity Test: The second test for lactose intolerance is the stool acidity test. For this test, a sample of the stool is taken. This test is usually given to infants and very young children with whom the hydrogen breath test may not be possible. Children, who have lactose intolerance, are not able to digest the lactic acids properly. Due to this, the lactic acid can be simply passed on to the stools to be excreted from the body. The stools are checked for the presence of lactic acid and other related fatty acids which may be present in the stools due to the inability of the body to break down lactose.

Stool acidity is not very commonly performed because most people experience the symptoms of lactose intolerance only when they are well into their adulthood. By then only a hydrogen breath test is performed. A doctor may usually only prescribe a stool acidity test if the child is feeling uncommon digestive distress and other symptoms which may indicate lactose intolerance. Though lactose intolerance is a condition which cannot be completely treated, the symptoms can be controlled without making any major changes in the diet.

Submitted on January 16, 2014