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5 Signs You Are Lactose Intolerant


In our American culture, we grew up believing that in order to develop strong bones and teeth, we need dairy. Part of this belief can be attributed to the USDA daily recommendations, which have undergone several changes since the 1940s. In, 2005 it was called “MyPyramid.” Now, the latest guide is called “MyPlate,” which features five categories: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy.

The dairy category still remains, when it really should be labeled “calcium,” since there are several plant foods that provide adequate calcium. But to the typical American, calcium only comes from dairy. Perhaps this is why some people feel sick after eating dairy products, but take products to quell the stomach pain rather than cease eating dairy altogether.

Consider that about 75 percent of people around the world are lactose intolerant and don’t consume any dairy at all. You might fall into the same camp as more than half of the world’s population. Here are five signs you are lactose intolerant.

1. You have nausea and/or diarrhea after consuming dairy. 

If you are lactose intolerant, symptoms of nausea, diarrhea and stomach pain will appear shortly after you consume dairy products. Check the label on foods you eat and see if you feel ill after eating them.

2. You always feel sick a few hours after consuming dairy.

Those with lactose intolerance often feel the unpleasant symptoms a few hours after consuming lactose. If you consistently feel ill shortly after eating dairy, you could have lactose intolerance.

3. You have abdominal bloating and cramping after eating dairy. 

Embarrassing and uncomfortable symptoms include painful gas and bloating. If you have a problem with gas, bloating or cramping, your body could be telling you that it can’t digest lactose.

4. You remove lactose from your diet for several weeks and notice a change.

Try a vegan challenge and remove lactose from your diet completely for several weeks. If you notice that your stomach problems subside and that you feel better, you have a sign that the dairy products are probably causing your pain.

5. You undergo tests to confirm diagnosis.

To confirm your lactose intolerant diagnosis, there are several tests you can perform. One is the hydrogen breath test measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath after you drink a lactose-loaded beverage several times during a few hours. Another is the milk challenge test, where you drink a glass of milk, then don’t eat anything else for 3 to 5 hours. If you’re lactose intolerant, you’ll have symptoms within two hours.

You should perform tests under doctor supervision. Using trial and error to understand what foods are causing your painful symptoms is a helpful way to self-diagnose before seeing a doctor or specialist.

Since the American belief is that dairy is necessary for calcium, it’s possible your body is telling you it can’t process dairy. If you are experiencing the above symptoms, consider trying a plant-based diet to feel better once and for all.

Image source: Mark/Flickr

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51 comments on “5 Signs You Are Lactose Intolerant”

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Ken Starr
4 Years Ago

I'm part Irish

Ken Starr
4 Years Ago

Irish people don't care because they know how to relax!

Ken Starr
4 Years Ago


Denise Marie Porter-Ramos
4 Years Ago

Obvious much?

Christen Mestre
4 Years Ago

I'm dairy-INDUSTRY intolerant ;)

Ronan O'donnell
4 Years Ago

Luckily Ireland, 95% of irish people are tolerant

Maddy Price
4 Years Ago

Adam Hightower

Janice Dost
4 Years Ago

And all of my family remains totally lactose tolerant. My Dad loved his glass of milk until he passed away at age 85. We also have no osteoporosis in my family, not even my great aunt when she died at 89 years and 5'9" tall. Or my distant cousin either who was over 90 at death and over 6' tall. Nature sure has her ways of taking care of us all, one way or another. We take political stands, fret over nutrition, try to avoid illness and injury. And those old folks just kept on truckin'.

David Cherry
4 Years Ago

Thanks, Anthony. Too many people believe everything they read, especially about food. Most Americans are NOT lactose intolerant. Most Asian adults show some signs of lactose intolerance and Asians make up a huge part of the world's population. But many people read this and assume that 75% of Americans are lactose intolerant. Milk provides a number of health benefits, in addition to being a rich source of calcium. Of you're not lactose intolerant, you are then fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the nutritional benefits of milk. That's something to take advantage of.

Patrick Copeland
4 Years Ago

It is amazing how someone will think they're lactose intolerant because their system supposedly can't tolerate lactose, but when they consume dairy products that are hundred percent certified organic and raw, there seems to be no problem? Hmmm....


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