Lactose is known as "milk sugar." It is present in the milk of all mammals, including human, cow, goat, sheep, etc. Most babies and young children all over the world can handle lactose in their diets without a problem. After all, milk is meant to be their primary food! But, as we get older, we may lose the ability to tolerate lactose, especially if we are of Asian, African or Native American descent.
Lactose intolerance can exist on its own, or it can be part of the larger IBS picture. The FODMAPS elimination diet in IBS--Free at Last! can help you figure out how lactose fits into your IBS scenario.
When lactose-intolerant people eat or drink large amounts of lactose-containing foods or drinks, they may get abdominal pain, flatulence, bloating or diarrhea. Small amounts of lactose may be well tolerated, so even lactose-intolerant people may be able to eat cheese or yogurt, or have a little milk in their cereal or coffee.
Milk products are important food sources of protein, calcium and vitamin D, so it's important not to stop consuming milk products without making a plan. One solution might be to drink specially treated, lactose-free milk and milk products. Yogurt is naturally lower in lactose, and most hard cheeses have just a trace. Drinking milk as part of meal helps, too. You might tolerate milk products better on a day that doesn't include a lot of other problem sugars and fibers. All of these variables can make people unsure whether they have a problem with lactose or not!
Diagnostic lactose-tolerance tests are available. But many people figure this one out on their own with a couple of glasses of milk or a big milkshake on an empty stomach! Need I say more?