Lactose Intolerance Test – Which One Is The Most Accurate?

Lactose Intolerance Test

Lactose intolerance refers to a condition in which the body has a hard time digesting lactose, a milk sugar. Lactose intolerance symptoms are often generalized, and their severity can vary from person to person. Most often, symptoms such as gas and bloating following a meal containing dairy are most common. Cramping, abdominal pain and rumblings in the belly are also not uncommon symptoms, and they may be some of the more predominant signs of lactose intolerance in children. In more severe cases, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea may present as lactose intolerance symptoms. However, because of the general nature of the signs of a dairy intolerance, these are sometimes not enough to send sufferers to their health care providers for a lactose intolerance test.

Those wondering, “Am I lactose intolerant?” may find some clues in the timing of symptoms. Since what causes lactose intolerance is an inability to process a sugar found in most dairy, when symptoms persist immediately following (or within two hours of) a meal containing dairy, it is possible that lactose intolerance may be to blame. However, when stomach bloating, gas and other symptoms exists following meals not containing dairy, it is possible that something else is to blame, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Should an inability to digest dairy be suspected, it is best to speak to a health care provider who will administer one of several lactose intolerance test procedures. There are multiple ways to answer the question “Am I lactose intolerant?” and which one is right for each individual and which one is the most accurate will depend on a variety of factors.

An intestinal biopsy is by far and away the most accurate and reliable test to identify lactose intolerance. Essentially, lactase levels in the intestinal lining are measured during the test. This is normally done via endoscopy. While it’s an incredibly accurate measure of the body’s inability to process lactose, it’s not a readily available test, it’s complicated, and it is expensive. Therefore it is almost never indicated for general use as a means to identify lactose intolerance. Another lactose intolerance test that is almost never used is the stool acidity test. It is most commonly utilized in small children. During the test, a lactose solution is given orally, and then stool samples are measured following, where the amounts of lactic acid present are measured. Obviously, it is a complicated and messy undertaking, and with other, better options available, there is little need to bring stool samples into the equation.

Interestingly enough, a simple blood test for measuring lactose intolerance is not quite so simple. The blood glucose test at one time was the gold standard for identifying an inability to process lactose. However, it requires an overnight fast and multiple blood tests. And, while other types of blood tests are notoriously accurate, this one unfortunately is not, and numerous false positives have resulted.

The most popular lactose intolerance test is not the one that is the most accurate, rather the one that is the simplest to administer. While it generally is able to determine whether or not someone has a difficult time digesting lactose, there are some things that can lead to skewed results. If bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine is present for instance, the test results can be marred. This test is known simply as the hydrogen breath test. Breath samples are collected and analyzed hours following the consumption of a lactose beverage in order to evaluate whether or not hydrogen or methane are present.

Regardless of which lactose intolerance test is performed, the larger task with the condition is developing good dietary habits to reduce symptoms. Aside from an enzyme that can help with digestion, commonly called the lactose intolerance pill, there is no treatment for an inability to digest lactose. Dietary accommodations are the only appropriate lactose intolerance treatment. This means eliminating or drastically reducing the amount of lactose (as well as hidden sources of lactose) in the diet. With the emergence of lactose free alternatives to loved dairy foods, this has now become easier than ever, making lactose intolerance treatment simple, and symptom relief possible.

References:
http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/tc/lactose-intolerance-exams-and-tests
http://www.medicinenet.com/lactose_intolerance/page5.htm

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