Everything that Rumbles is Not Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is often a misunderstood condition. Lactose intolerance occurs when you have a lower level of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest milk sugar. Many African-Americans are avoiding dairy, particularly milk because they think they are lactose intolerant.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, diarrhea, gas, nausea, pain in your abdomen, stomach “growling” or rumbling sounds and vomiting. However, while gas, bloating or abdominal discomfort can be uncomfortable and disruptive to a person’s lifestyle, it is difficult to confirm lactose intolerance based on digestive discomfort alone. In fact, if you have diabetes, your gastrointestinal disturbance may not be caused by lactose intolerance.

National data on people with diabetes and digestive disease indicate that people with diabetes are more likely than the general U.S. population to report gastrointestinal conditions, including ulcers, diverticulitis, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and gallstones.

It’s important to identify the actual source of discomfort because dairy avoidance could negatively impact your health. For example, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report says, that “consumption of dairy foods provides numerous health benefits including lower risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and obesity,”—disease states that affect African Americans in disproportionate numbers. Furthermore, The National Medical Association, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of African-American physicians, recommends that African Americans consume 3-4 servings of low-fat dairy per day.

Many people who say they have trouble digesting milk have actually never been diagnosed as lactose intolerant by a health professional. If you are experiencing gastrointestinal problems, you should see