Could you eat your weight in ice cream? Do you love cereal with milk for breakfast? We do too! But after you eat these foods, do you feel bloated? Maybe a little gassy, or just plain uncomfortable? If so, you could be lactose intolerant. Read on to learn more!
What Is Lactose Intolerance?
First, let’s talk about what lactose is and what it means to be intolerant of it. Lactose is a type of sugar naturally found in the milk of most mammals. An enzyme known as lactase is responsible for breaking down lactose for digestion, but our bodies tend to produce less of it as we get older. In fact, by adulthood, up to 70% of people no longer produce enough lactase to digest lactose (aka lactose intolerant), leading to a number of uncomfortable symptoms when milk and other dairy products are consumed.
Stomach Pain and Bloating
For lactose intolerant people, bacteria in the colon ferment the lactose your body has left undigested, resulting in gas. This can cause you to feel lower stomach pain, bloating, and uncomfortably full.
Hey, we didn’t say these symptoms were going to be pretty. This is also the result of lactose fermenting in the colon; the amount of water in your gut increases, and, well, this will change your stool drastically.
That fermented lactose in your colon is also responsible for causing gas. This varies by person, and the amount you experience depends on what you ate and how much.
If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms after consuming dairy, the next time you find yourself at home with a big bowl of ice cream, make a mental note of the time and wait anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. Any symptoms you may experience during this time could be the result of lactose intolerance.
Lactose Intolerance vs. Milk Allergy
It’s important to note that being lactose intolerant and having a milk allergy are very different. If you’re experiencing milk allergy symptoms such as a rash, vomiting, nausea, asthma, or anaphylaxis, talk to your doctor as soon as possible because it could be life-threatening, depending on the severity of your allergy.