Time frame for improvement when lactose intolerant?
July 5, 2010 8:59 AM   Subscribe

If you have lactose intolerance, how long does it take to feel better after stopping eating dairy products?

My doctor thinks I might be lactose intolerant and has told me to stop eating dairy products for a few weeks. 10 days in things are as bad or worse as when I was eating milk/cheese/etc. (For me, this means lack of appetite, stomach & intestine pain and cramps, gas, and diarrhea.)

It would be helpful for me to get a sense of other people's experience of this: once you stop eating milk products, how long does it take for you to feel better?
posted by medusa to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It usually takes me a 5-6 hours---by the next day at the most---to feel completely better, once the dairy has gone through my system.
posted by chiefthe at 9:08 AM on July 5, 2010

I'm not lactose intolerant, but my sister and father are. You absolutely shouldn't be feeling any of the effects of dairy after ten days; I've never heard of someone needing more than a day or two to recover from even the most extreme problems.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:10 AM on July 5, 2010

I am lactose-intolerant but go through different periods of being able to eat some diary products. When I went completely lactose-free for the first time under doctor's orders, I felt better for the first few days, but then my usual symptoms returned. There were two things happening. 1. Lactose was really much more prevalent in less obvious places than I could've imagined. Bread, prepared foods etc. Read labels carefully. 2. My body missed the active bacteria from yogurt, so when I am able, I still have that, or I take a supplement.

Now, as I said, I go through different occasional periods of being able to consume cheese, ice-cream, (never straight milk) but by far the times when I am most intolerant (have to avoid it strictly) is when I am ovulating and on my period.

Or after 10 days, lactose-intolerance is not what is causing your symptoms.
posted by typewriter at 9:15 AM on July 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree with everyone else - i'm lactose intolerant, and it usually just takes a day, tops, for me to feel okay again. After 10 days you should definitely have seen an improvement if lactose was your problem and you've successfully cut it out. It may be that you are gluten-intolerant instead - i found this website to be very helpful in identifying my symptoms and looking at potential causes.

(also along typewriter's lines [tee hee], watch out for sausages! Little lactose bombs, those!)
posted by ukdanae at 9:28 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

yeah, just a few hours for discomfort to go away. like go to bed feeling "intolerant" wake up feeling alright!
posted by chasles at 9:30 AM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far - this is incredibly helpful. Hearing about others' experiences is very useful. If others want to chime in I'd be happy to hear more stories.
posted by medusa at 9:33 AM on July 5, 2010

That sounds odd to me. I'm lactose intolerant, but its because I have Crohn's disease. When my intestines get stressed out I don't produce enough of the enzyme to break down lactose. I think. I've got to be honest, my memory for the exact process fails me. The point is, you may have something more going on than simple intolerance.

If you are missing lactose containing foods, try hard cheeses. Cheddar, Swiss, Kraft American etc. (pretty much most cheeses with the exception of mozzarella, my fav) are all lactose free. If the label says sugars =zero that means that lactose (a milk sugar) was eliminated during the process of cheese making. I didn't realize that I had as many options for dairy as I do even as very intolerant as I am. Also, if you make your own yogourt, you can let it cook for 24 hours, which is long enough for the bacteria to get rid of all the lactose. Its a bit more sour than regular yougourt, but even if you add sugar to it, its still way less than grocery brand yogourts use. Its cheap and easy to make. Try googling "SCD yogourt" for directions.
posted by gilsonal at 9:33 AM on July 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Your profile doesn't say where you live, but maybe down the line, when you are feeling a better, this may be an option. I've been reading where Raw Milk may not cause lactose intolerance in people that previously experience it.

FWIW--I eat their dairy products and almonds, but I do not have problems with lactose intolerance.
posted by 6:1 at 9:51 AM on July 5, 2010

It may not be the lactose -- I'm allergic to caesin, the protein (not the sugar) in milk, and my symptoms can last weeks. Dairy that is free of lactose, such as yogurt and hard cheeses, still has caesin in it. The only things that work for me are avoidance of anything obviously containing dairy and strong, hot peppermint tea whenever I feel a flare-up coming on.
posted by canadia at 10:00 AM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: Canadia, when you say your symptoms can last weeks - do you mean it will take weeks for things to feel better after you stop eating dairy products? (Sorry if this question seems stupid, I just want to make sure I understand you.)
posted by medusa at 10:03 AM on July 5, 2010

Yes, that's what I mean. After I eat dairy I become bloated, crampy, and nauseated, along with diarrhea or even vomiting. It usually takes 3-4 days before I start to feel normal again.

I really can't recommend peppermint tea enough. Drink it has hot as you can stand it and as strong as you can stand it.
posted by canadia at 10:09 AM on July 5, 2010

I thought for a while that I was lactose intolerant, then tried cutting out wheat, and nothing seemed to work. I had all of the same symptoms as you. My doctor tested me for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), that came up positive, and treatment changed everything. SIBO testing is relatively new, so you might want to do some research and bring it up with your doctor.
posted by Maarika at 11:14 AM on July 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just wanted to second the recommendation of peppermint tea. I'm lactose intolerant and have IBS, and when things just aren't feeling right, some good strong peppermint tea helps ease the symptoms until I correct my diet/am less stressed out.
posted by quirks at 12:59 PM on July 5, 2010

Have you been tested for celiac disease?
posted by Ouisch at 5:46 PM on July 5, 2010

I've been lactose intolerant pretty much since the day I was born, and I don't have any other digestive or stomach issues. Usually my symptoms do not last more than a few hours after eating dairy, maybe 10 hours at the absolute most.

gilsonal is right--lots of cheeses do not contain lactose!
posted by inertia at 7:37 PM on July 5, 2010

Seconding the casein issues.

I'm casein intolerant (it seems) and it's taken a couple weeks for things to improve. I don't know how long it takes to get completely better - according to my doctor, that's a state I've never been in, and I've only had a trial diagnosis for a few weeks.
posted by ysabet at 9:32 PM on July 5, 2010

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