If you think you might be eating something that doesn’t quite agree with you—perhaps you regularly experience gastrointestinal distress—you might be wondering if you are dairy or gluten intolerant. After all, lactose and gluten are two of the most common food sensitivities, so there’s a fairly good chance that you could be affected.
Which Is It?
Lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance often produce overlapping symptoms, such as:
- Abdominal pain
Therefore, it can be challenging to figure out which food—if either—is causing your discomfort. Even so, the two food sensitivities are quite different.
What’s the Difference?
Lactose intolerance occurs when the body does not produce a sufficient amount of lactase. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down lactose, a natural sugar found in dairy products, in the small intestine. If undigested lactose moves beyond the small intestine, the large intestine may respond to the unwelcome substance by producing gas and other unpleasant symptoms. To test for lactose intolerance, a physician may perform a breath test, such as the lactose hydrogen breath test or the hydrogen/methane breath test. Both tests can measure the amount of gas produced by the large intestine after a dairy product is consumed.
Unlike lactose intolerance, which is fairly straightforward, gluten intolerance is not well understood. In addition to gastrointestinal distress, gluten sensitivity can cause joint pain, skin rashes, and brain fog, which are also symptoms of celiac disease—a more serious autoimmune condition that damages the small intestine. To test for gluten intolerance, a physician will first need to rule out celiac disease with a blood test, which must be performed while gluten is still in the diet. After ruling out celiac disease, the only way to test for gluten intolerance is to monitor the symptoms after eliminating gluten from the diet.
Try an Elimination Diet
The gold standard for diagnosing food sensitivities, an elimination diet involves the complete exclusion of a food category that may be causing adverse effects, such as dairy products, for at least two weeks. After that, the food is gradually reintroduced, such as drinking a small amount of milk, while watching for patterns in the foods consumed and the resulting symptoms.
If you’re a member of Optimum Direct Care, a direct primary care practice in Orlando, FL, food sensitivity testing is included in your membership, and we can help you find out if you are dairy or gluten intolerant. Contact us to learn more.