Your doctor may suspect lactose intolerance based on your symptoms and your response to reducing the amount of dairy foods in your diet. Your doctor can confirm the diagnosis by conducting one or more of the following tests:
Sept. 02, 2016
- Lactose tolerance test. The lactose tolerance test gauges your body's reaction to a liquid that contains high levels of lactose. Two hours after drinking the liquid, you'll undergo blood tests to measure the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. If your glucose level doesn't rise, it means your body isn't properly digesting and absorbing the lactose-filled drink.
- Hydrogen breath test. This test also requires you to drink a liquid that contains high levels of lactose. Then your doctor measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath at regular intervals. Normally, very little hydrogen is detectable. However, if your body doesn't digest the lactose, it will ferment in the colon, releasing hydrogen and other gases, which are absorbed by your intestines and eventually exhaled. Larger than normal amounts of exhaled hydrogen measured during a breath test indicate that you aren't fully digesting and absorbing lactose.
- Stool acidity test. For infants and children who can't undergo other tests, a stool acidity test may be used. The fermenting of undigested lactose creates lactic acid and other acids that can be detected in a stool sample.
- Feldman M, et al. Maldigestion and malabsorption. In: Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 26, 2015.
- Leavitt M, et al. Clinical implications of lactose malabsorption versus lactose intolerance. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 2013;47:471.
- Montgomery RK, et al. Lactose intolerance. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 25, 2015.
- Lactose intolerance. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/lactoseintolerance/. Accessed March 26, 2015.
- Heaney, RP. Dairy intake, dietary adequacy, and lactose intolerance. Advances in Nutrition. 2013;4:151.