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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How do I know if I am lactose intolerant?

    I've noticed that i get gassy and uncomfortable after i have a rich dessert or a coffee for example, could i be lactose intolerant? How would i know?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Rebecca Charlotte Reynolds, PhD (Dr Bec) Personable and ethical registered nutritionist (RNutr) and lecturer at UNSW Australia in lifestyle and health. Regular consultant to the … View Profile

    Hi there,

    This website provides great info:

    Let me know if you need to know anything else.

    Dr B

  • Melissa Adamski

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    I am an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and Accredited Nutritionist (AN) with a passion for food and good nutrition. I also have my own private … View Profile

    Many people with lactose intolerance have a suspicion they are due to uncomfortable abdominal symptoms after consuming lactose containing foods such as milk. Symtoms can include bloating, stomach pains and diarrhoea.

    Consulting an Accredited Practising Dietitian can help you understand whether your symptoms are caused by lactose. Under an APD's care they may trial an elimination style diet in which lactose is removed and symptoms monitored.

    Hydrogen breath testing can also be conducted to diagnose lactose intolerance. This is where hydrogen on the breath is measured and symptoms monitored after lactose is consumed.

    It is important you consult an APD before cutting out lactose containing foods. Many poeple with lactose intolerance can tolerate a small amount of lactose in foods without causing symptoms. An APD will help determine this with you. This can ensure you can still consume some of the foods you may love such as milk products without having symptoms.

  • 1


    Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    If you notice digestive problems after drinking milk or eating cheese, one simple test to see if lactose intolerance could be the culprit is to avoid all dairy foods for awhile and see if your symptoms vanish. If so, you have probably found the answer. For a more official diagnosis, your doctor might arrange a test for you. The test measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath after you have had a lactose-containing food, which indicates how much lactose remains undigested.
    Many people are intolerant to lactose, a key ingredient in milk-based foods. We need the enzyme lactase to be able to digest the lactose. Without enough lactase, drinking a glass of milk can cause a range of uncomfortable digestive upsets, including diarrhoea, gas and stomach cramps. Lactose intolerance is very common in certain ethnic groups; it’s high among Asians, for example. A milk allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance; an allergy usually is a childhood affliction that can be quite severe and is a reaction to a protein found in milk.

  • Dr Richard Beatty

    GP (General Practitioner)

    Brisbane GP With Special interest in Complex Medical, Men's health, antenatal, paediatrics. Skin Cancer Clinic Designated Aviation Medical Examiner Specific interests in Vasectomy, Dermatology & … View Profile

    Hi, good question; I agree with Arlene's comment that, for an official diagnosis, you need a lactose breath test. However, as implied by Arlene's answer, you don't necessarily need an official answer if you try, instead, a lactose free diet for 4 weeks to re-check your symptoms. The test is not currently medicare rebatable and typical costs might be around $300 (lactose is not usually tested on its own - 3 sugars are on 3 different days including a lactulose control with which it is compared). Also, the test involves collecting breath samples every 20 minutes for up to 3 hours on those 3 different days, but you can bring something to do during that time or even get a test-kit sent to your home.

    There is more information on following a lactose-free diet on

  • Joy Anderson

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    Joy is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist, as well as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has a special interest in … View Profile

    Note that not all dairy products contain significant lactose. Many people say they are lactose intolerant when they are really reacting to the protein in dairy products. Hard cheese contains very little lactose and someone with lactose intolerance can eat it without problems. So if cheese causes symptoms, you should suspect intolerance to the protein in cows' milk, not lactose.

    Unlike milk allergy, milk protein intolerance is reasonably common amongst adults as well as children. Also, lactose intolerance only gives the person symptoms in their lower digestive tract, like wind, bloating and diarrhoea. Milk protein intolerance can give the person other symptoms as well, like reflux, mood effects, runny nose, sinus, general feeling of poor wellbeing, etc.

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