Lactose Intolerance – Diagnosis

The most common test used to measure lactose absorption in the digestive system is the Lactose Intolerance Test, the Hydrogen Breath Test and the Fecal Acidity Test. These tests can be done in a hospital, clinic or in the doctor’s office, without hospitalization of the person being tested.

The Lactose Intolerance Test is started with the subject fasting. The test is then followed by the ingestion of liquids containing lactose. Over a two-hour period, blood samples are collected to measure glucose levels, which indicate the body’s ability to digest lactose.

Under normal conditions, when lactose reaches the digestive tract, the enzyme lactase breaks lactose down into glucose and galactose. The liver then converts the Lactose into Glucose, which enters the bloodstream increasing blood Glucose levels. If Lactose is not broken down as it should be, Glucose levels do not increase. This confirms the diagnosis of lactose intolerance.

The breath hydrogen test measures the amount of hydrogen present in the breath. Under normal conditions, very little hydrogen is detected in the breath. Lactose that has not been digested in the colon is fermented by bacteria and various gases are produced, including hydrogen. Hydrogen is absorbed by the intestines, transported through the circulatory system to the lungs and eliminated by respiration. During the test, the subject is given a lactose drink and the breath is analyzed intermittently. Elevated levels of hydrogen in the breath indicate inadequate digestion of lactose. Certain foods, drugs and cigarettes may affect the accuracy of the test, so should be avoided before taking it. This test is applicable to both adults and minors.

The Lactose Intolerance and Hydrogen Breath Test is not applicable to infants or very young children in whom lactose intolerance is suspected. Consumption of large amounts of lactose can be dangerous for these ages, as there is a risk of dehydration from the diarrhea caused by lactose. If a baby or child shows symptoms of lactose intolerance, many pediatricians recommend simply switching from cow’s milk to soy formula while waiting for symptoms to subside.

In addition, if necessary, a stool acidity test is also administered to measure the amount of acid in the stool, both in infants and young children. Undigested lactose, which is fermented by the bacteria in the colon, makes lactic acid and other short chain fatty acids that can be detected in a stool sample. In addition, Glucose may also be detected in the sample as a result of Lactose that has not been absorbed in the colon.

How is Lactose Intolerance treated?

Fortunately, lactose intolerance can be easily treated. There is no cure for improving the body’s ability to produce lactase, but symptoms can be controlled through diet.

Young children with lactase deficiency should not eat foods containing lactose. Older children and adults do not need to avoid lactose completely, but should consume as much as their body can tolerate, which varies from person to person. For example, one person may experience symptoms after drinking a small glass of milk, while others can comfortably consume one glass of milk, but not two.

Some may be able to consume ice cream and cheese without symptoms, but not other dairy products. The control of lactose intolerance depends on the individual’s experience, through which they determine the amount of lactose they can tolerate.

For those who react to even very small amounts of lactose or cannot limit their consumption of lactose-containing foods, there are lactose enzymes commercially available without a doctor’s prescription, in liquid form, which are used with milk. A few drops are added to a quart of milk, and after 24 hours in the refrigerator, the lactose content is reduced by 70%. This process is accelerated if the milk is heated first. Then by adding double the amount of lactase liquid, milk is produced that is 90% lactose-free. A more recent discovery is that of the lactase chewable enzyme tablet, which helps people digest solid foods containing lactose. Three to six tablets are taken just before a meal or snack.

In addition, milk containing reduced lactose and other related products are available in supermarkets. This milk contains all the nutrients found in regular milk and stays fresh for the same amount of time, or longer if it is super pasteurized.