6 Signs You Might Be Lactose Intolerant – And What To Do About It

Your need-to-know.

09/03/2017 16:46 GMT | Updated 13/03/2017 15:30 GMT

Grabbing stomach pains and the sensation of nausea happen to us all from time-to-time. But when these feelings are no longer limited to being an after effect of over indulging on treats, it’s time to investigate the possibility of something else being at play. 

Food intolerances – defined by the NHS as: ‘difficulty digesting certain foods and having an unpleasant physical reaction to them’ – aren’t fun. Symptoms can go from moderate (a little discomfort) to nasty (gut-wrenching pain) but, wherever you sit on the scale, it’s worth figuring out what the issue is. 

A difficulty with lactose, the sugar found in dairy products, can occur at any time in life. Caused by a lack of the enzyme lactase, which would normally live in the lining of the small intestine and allow the body to break down lactose, it results in the sugar remaining undigested in the large intestine. Here, it’s fermented by bacteria, which triggers the unpleasant effects. 

To help you decide if lactose might be your problem, we asked Jo Travers, Registered Dietitian and author of The Low-Fad Diet for the signs that she would see as reason to try an exclusion diet or get tested for the intolerance, if they arrive after consuming dairy products. 

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1. Stomach cramps and pains 

If you feel squeezing sensations and rumblings in your tummy after a slice of cheesecake, it may be a signal. But remember that this may not happen right after you eat. “Symptoms are usually delayed so it may not be immediately obvious that it is dairy causing the problem,” advises Travers. 

2. Bloated stomach 

If your tummy swells up, that could be another indicator that your gut isn’t happy. 

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3. Flatulence (wind) 

More than normal is another (audible) sign. 

4. Feeling sick 

That unsettling nausea we all know is something else to watch out for. 

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5. Stomach rumbling and gurgling 

If there’s a Royal Albert Hall’s worth of noise emanating from your insides, you can probably guess something’s not right. 

6. Diarrhoea 

Not the nicest of topics. But if this starts half an hour to a couple of hours after bowl of yoghurt, cheese toastie or the like, it’s another alarm bell. 

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So. If these exhibitions of potential lactose issues ring a bell with you, it’s time to think about looking into a diagnosis. Knowledge is power, people.