what to do if you suspect you have lactose intolerance

Here’s what to do if you suspect you have a Lactose Intolerance!

So, you are pretty sure that you’ve got an issue with lactose! Milk makes you bloat, cream makes you run to the toilet, and yogurt is a no go. You know that you can’t go out anywhere for awhile after eating ice cream, and if you do then you better know where the nearest public toilets are! These are all symptoms of lactose intolerance, and you have them!

So, what now?

The first step in this process is to understand what lactose is, and what foods it’s found in. This makes the follow-on steps much, much easier to follow.


What is lactose?

Lactose is the main sugar component of cow’smilk and is therefore found in ALL products that contain cows milk dairy. This includes things like milk, cream, butter, yogurt, ice cream, salad dressings, baked goods and more. You need to be vigilant with product labels and make sure that you check for any dairy products.

This list includes common foods that contain lactose

  • Cow’s milk & butter milk
  • Evaporated and condensed milk
  • Cow’s milk cheeses – soft cheeses contain more lactose, and harder more aged cheeses are often very low in lactose and can be better tolerated
  • Yogurts and yogurt milks
  • Yakult and acidophilus milk drinks
  • Ice cream
  • Cream and sour cream products
  • Butter and butter products
  • Cheese spreads and other cheese products
  • Cottage and ricotta cheeses
  • Hot chocolate mixes that have dairy milk powder in them
  • Chocolate chips and cooking chocolate that contains dairy
  • Dairy milk chocolate – go for dark chocolate that does NOT contain milk or dairy free chocolate
  • Probiotics that are dairy based
  • Whey protein powder
  • Also look out for dairy in processed and packaged foods, sauces, pre-made desserts and lollies etc. This includes pre-made breads and biscuits/cakes, some of them do contain milk or butter products.

What is lactose intolerance?

So now you know what lactose is, you are probably wondering why and how you have an intolerance to it. Lactose intolerance occurs when your body cannot digest the lactose in dairy. The reason for this is lack of an enzyme called ‘lactase’, which is necessary to efficiently digest the lactose sugar.

When lactase enzyme is missing in your digestive tract, the lactose moves on into the large intestine. It’s here that the bacteria in your intestine have an absolute field day with lactose. They ferment it, and you get the classic symptoms of bloating, gas pains, wind and diarrhoea. Which leads us into the next part,’

What are the most common symptoms of lactose intolerance?

  • Bloating
  • Gas pains
  • Wind
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

These symptoms can come on quickly, or they can take 24 hours to manifest. Generally, if you are going to get diarrhoea then it occurs quickly. However other symptoms like headaches and fatigue can occur 1 to 2 days later.

Another important point is this: lactose intolerance is not life threatening. It is a digestive response. This is different to an allergy, which is an instant and life-threatening response that occurs in the immune system. You can read more about the differences between lactose intolerance and dairy allergy here:

Why do I have lactose intolerance in the first place?

The reasons why you have a deficiency in lactase enzyme in the first place are not well known. Mostly humans are born able to digest lactose, but the enzyme needed tends to lessen as we age and no longer consume breast milk. However, a small amount is usually retained. For those who have lactose intolerance, this isn’t the case.

The known risk factors include:

  • A genetic history of lactose intolerance
  • Asian heritage
  • A history of chrons disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Gastroenteritis infection
  • Gluten intolerance or celiac disease
  • Age – some people tolerate lactose less and less as they age

Now that you know a little bit about lactose intolerance, what it is and why it may happen, let’s have a look at what you can do if you suspect you do indeed have it!

Testing options for lactose intolerance

Arguably the most important thing you should do if you suspect you are dealing with a lactose intolerance, is get tested for it!

Testing for lactose intolerance can be done in a few different ways.

You can do a hydrogen breath test, which is ordered via a GP or integrative practitioner. It involves drinking lactose and then having your excretion of hydrogen recorded over several hours. Having high hydrogen levels indicates that you may have lactose intolerance.

You can also have an IgG food intolerance blood test, which involves drawing a blood sample. This can show up lactose as an issue for you, but its accuracy is constantly being debated.

You can also use our non-invasive food intolerance test, which uses a few strands of your hair and will show up ALL of your intolerances in one test. This is because over 700 items are covered, and whichever foods your body is having issues with will be shown on your test results.

Click HERE to book your hair test.

You’ve been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, now what?

Now that you know for sure that lactose intolerance is causing your issues, we’d like to offer you a way in which to tackle it. It can be daunting when you must remove a large portion of your diet, but with the right support it can be smooth and highly beneficial.

Let’s break it down into simple steps that you can follow:

Step 1

Firstly, remove all forms of dairy from your diet. This will involve checking packets of all your favourite foods, sauces and the like to make sure diary is not an ingredient. When you remove dairy completely, you give your body a change to recover and to remove the inflammation caused by dairy consumption. You will probably notice that your symptoms really reduce quite quickly if you stick strongly to no dairy consumptions.

Step 2

Secondly visit your local health food or wholefoods store and ask them to show you their dairy free range of products. You can find breads, crackers, biscuits, dips, yogurts and other non-dairy products that you can use. The range these days is quite extensive, and tasty! If you don’t have a local health food store, then go online to find dairy free products.

Step 3

After 6 weeks of being strictly dairy free, you can slowly begin to reintroduce foods that are low in lactose. After doing this, wait at least 2 days before trialling any other foods, so that you can gauge how your body reacts. This will also show you want foods you can tolerate, and which ones you are still reacting to.Everyone’s tolerance levels are different, and you may find that you can have some natural yogurt and parmesan for example and still be ok.

Step 4

Low lactose foods to trail with after 6 weeks of strictly dairy free eatinginclude butter, ghee, parmesan cheese and ricotta cheese. If you don’t have reactions to these, or very low reactions, you can then try adding in natural yogurt, sour cream etc in small amounts. Always be sure to gauge how your body reacts before introducing anything new. Over time you will learn how much of each food you can tolerate.


In conclusion, today’s blog is all about what to do if you suspect you have a lactose intolerance. It’s an interesting question, and in order to understand the process we had a look at what lactose is, what foods it’s found in, what occurs when you do have an intolerance to it, and the main symptoms.

These include mainly the following digestive upsets:

  • Bloating
  • Gas pains
  • Wind
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

We then discussed the reasons why you might have a lactose intolerance in the first place, and what the risk factors are for developing it. Most importantly we guide you in your testing options for lactose intolerance, and what you can do if the results are positive. You can find our favourite testing option HERE, we hope it gives you the answers you’re looking for.

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