How Do You Know If You’re Lactose Intolerant?

You drink a glass of milk, your kids enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich, or you splurge on that double scoop of ice cream and soon enough, find you’ve earned yourself a one-way ticket to Tummy Trouble Town. But what exactly does that mean? Are you lactose intolerant? Should you stay away from dairy products entirely?

Research suggests that the A1 protein in milk (ordinary cows’ milk contains both A1 and A2 proteins) causes digestive discomfort in many people. Your discomfort could indeed come from lactose intolerance, but research suggests if you’re not medically diagnosed, post-dairy digestion discomfort may be the result of an A1 protein sensitivity.

Lucky enough, those with dairy sensitivity still have the opportunity to enjoy real cows’ milk with a2 Milk®— a real, naturally easy-to-digest milk that comes from cows that only produce the A2 protein, with varieties including Whole, 2%, 1% and new Chocolate 2% Reduced Fat Milk.

We tapped expert Bonnie Johnson, registered dietitian and Vice President of Scientific Affairs for The a2 Milk Company™, for her advice on how to know if you or someone in your family is lactose intolerant.

What are the key distinguishing signs of a lactose intolerance or dairy allergy, versus dairy discomfort?

“Milk sensitivity can be caused either by a problem digesting the sugar in milk, lactose intolerance, or by a problem digesting one of the proteins in milk— A1 protein sensitivity. The digestive symptoms are similar between lactose intolerance and A1 protein sensitivity: tummy aches, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea.”

How often is lactose intolerance misdiagnosed?

“It’s difficult to put numbers on the prevalence of or the misdiagnosis of lactose intolerance because the symptoms of “lactose intolerance” can be fairly easily remedied by changing your diet, so often it’s not ‘diagnosed’ at all. However, there is a test for lactose intolerance (a hydrogen breath test), which can be administered by a doctor, but is not usually covered by insurance.”

What differentiates a2 Milk® from other ordinary cows’ milks?

“a2 Milk® is A1 beta-casein protein free. That’s important because A1 protein may be to blame for some of the digestive issues people have with milk. Before eliminating dairy to solve digestive issues, you can try a2 Milk® to see if that remedies the symptoms while keeping the nutrition powerhouse of milk in your diet.”

What are the benefits of drinking cows’ milk (like a2 Milk®) versus plant-based milks? 

“Cows’ milk is naturally nutrient rich containing 9 essential vitamins and minerals and complete protein. Plant-based beverages are heavily fortified in order to match up to the natural nutrition in cows’ milk and some are low in protein.”

Why is it important for children to drink cows’ milk?

“Cows’ milk is a source of calcium and vitamin D which are critical in bone health and development. Milk is also an important source of protein in the diet of children and adolescents.”

What are some signs that a child might be lactose intolerant?

“Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, gas, and/or bloating after drinking milk or eating other dairy foods.”

How common is lactose intolerance in children?

“It’s hard to say because the symptoms of lactose intolerance are the same as many other childhood illnesses which may get better over time.”

What should parents do if they suspect their child is lactose intolerant? 

“Parents should consult their child’s pediatrician with any questions about health and diet.”

You can find out more about a2 Milk® on their website or look for it in local specialty food stores and supermarkets.

Now read these tips for How to Keep Cold and Flu Season Away from Your House or the Vitamin Gwyneth Paltrow Made Just for Moms.