Personal Hacking for Health and Productivity

Testing for Lactose Intolerance at Home

Lactose Tolerance Testing at Home

We’ve been following the Whole 30 Paleo detox for a month and are now starting the phase of re-introducing certain foods to test for intolerances. Many people suggest that the practice of elimination followed by a controlled re-introduction of individual food types is the best way to identify food intolerances but in my experience it is not at all straight forward.

Our reasons for starting the detox were different, Lynn has suffered for years with acid reflux, waking each morning with a sore stomach and throat and has recently started taking proton pump inhibitors in attempt to ease the problem. I have recently been diagnosed with the autoimmune thyroid condition – Hashimoto’s disease and I’m keen to test whether dietary control (particularly gluten removal) can reduce the immune response and slow the damage to my thyroid.

The Whole 30 program has been great for both of us, we’ve been eating clean and have felt the benefit in terms of increased energy, much better mood (me), undisturbed sleep and Lynn no longer requires the tablets. It feels important to isolate the individual elements that might have contributed to the improvement following their removal from our diet so we can eliminate them permanently.

Lynn chose to reintroduce milk first, as it’s a single food group and commonly causes exacerbation of symptoms in sufferers of acid reflux. The first morning after drinking skimmed milk for breakfast, she reacted with bloating and soreness within 30 mins. This then required further testing as people with milk sensitivity can either have problems with lactose (milk sugar) or some of the proteins in milk.

The next day she bought some lactose free milk and cheese. These were both fine with no early side effects but later in the afternoon some symptoms did materialise. This is the problem with elimination and reintroduction diets. You become so attuned to your body that you are aware of any imbalance or discomfort and wonder whether it’s a direct results of the food you last ate or maybe it’s a delayed response to the food you ate yesterday. Then you begin to doubt yourself completely. The upshot is that the lactose free milk test was a little inconclusive and Lynn needed to go clean for a few days and then start again with the milk test.

This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to try the DIY home Lactose Intolerance test.

It’s remarkably easy to do the lactose intolerance test at home if you have a blood glucose meter. I use the Accu-Chek Aviva Blood Glucose System.

The test requires you to drink 500ml of fresh milk and record your blood glucose levels immediately afterwards and then at regular intervals for 1-2 hours afterwards.

Lactose is the sugar found in milk and is actually a disaccharide comprised of galactose and glucose. In most people the enzyme lactase (released in the small intestine) will break down lactose into the two individual monsaccharides and blood sugar levels will rise as a result. People who are said to be lactose intolerant no longer produce the lactase enzyme and therefore blood glucose levels will not rise as much as those who are not lactose intolerant.

In the test, when you monitor blood sugar levels over time you would expect the levels to keep rising for a while and then they will start to drop off again after your insulin gets to work. If your glucose level rises more than 30 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/l) within 2 hours of drinking the milk you are considered not to be lactose intolerant i.e. a normal result. A rise of 20-30 mg/dL is inconclusive and a rise of less than 20 mg/dL (1.1 mmol/l) would suggest you are lactose intolerant.

I had no indication that I had a problem with either milk or dairy so I was going to do the test as a control subject. Unfortunately my fasting blood glucose was unusually high this morning. It’s normally well below 5 mmol/l when I wake up but today it was 6.5 mmol/l and it lingered at that level until we started the test 2 hours later. This does mean that my test results will need to be repeated and aren’t currently that useful, it also means that I will have to keep a close eye on my fasting blood sugar levels for a while.

Lactose Tolerance Blood Testing at Home

NB. I’ve converted my measurements from the UK mmol/l to the US mg/dl but this is not necessary for the test.

These test results suggest that Lynn does not have a problem with lactose and in fact she didn’t even notice any gastro upset with the half litre of organic whole milk she had as part of the test. My test results on the other hand were not so clear, my glucose levels did not raise sufficiently to declare a normal result but as I mentioned earlier, they had been unusually elevated before I did the test and the difference between the highest and lowest recorded was more than 30 mg/dl.

We are both left with the need to do more testing, I will repeat the lactose tolerance blood test and Lynn will try reintroducing different forms of dairy.

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