Q: Is there anyway I can tell if I have lactose intolerance? I drink a lot of milk, and was wondering if there are daily health signs I can watch to determine if I?m a candidate?
A: Some people may have a slight degree of lactose intolerance without knowing it. But in that case, you wouldn?t need to worry about it because it would be unlikely to do you any harm.
For the most part, lactose-intolerant people know they have a problem by the unpleasant digestive symptoms that arise an hour or so after they consume milk or other dairy products. Symptoms may include gas, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and ?rumbling.?
The symptoms occur in people who can?t properly digest the milk sugar lactose. Normally, the body uses the enzyme lactase to break down milk sugar. When lactase is absent or the supply is insufficient, the undigested lactose remains in the intestines, where it ferments and causes digestive troubles.
Not to trivialize the symptoms, but lactose intolerance is rarely dangerous. Some people who avoid dairy because of their symptoms may not get enough calcium in their diet. They should eat other kinds of calcium-rich foods and possibly take supplements.
The upshot of this is that if you don?t have symptoms, you don?t have a problem. Perhaps you may have one in the future, because some people develop lactose intolerance as they get older. But again, it?s nothing you have to deal with beforehand.
Most lactose intolerant people manage just fine once they recognize what?s happening. They may adjust they way they eat dairy, for example, eating smaller portions scattered through the day. They may buy products that have digestive aids added or add the lactose aids themselves. Another option is to substitute calcium-enriched products, such as soymilk, for dairy. Or they may combine a little bit of each of these methods.