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.

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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.

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Image source: Mark/Flickr