Lactose intolerance – The inability to break down a type of natural sugar (lactose). This is extremely common among adults, about 36% of Americans and 68% of the world population have some degree of lactose intolerance. And it is rarely dangerous. Nearly 30 million Americans have lactose intolerance by age 20. Lactose intolerance is different from a milk allergy because, in a milk allergy, the body reacts to milk proteins, not milk sugar. And milk allergy can cause severe symptoms.
This article covers all the significant topics related to lactose intolerance tests such as the test cost, symptoms, types, risk factors, and how to get tested for a lactose intolerance test.
- What is lactose intolerance?
- Types of lactose intolerance
- Lactose intolerance symptoms
- Risk factors
- Test for lactose intolerance
- Lactose intolerance treatment
- Which food contains lactose?
- Lifestyle changes
- Provider locations
How much does the lactose intolerance test cost?
Lactose intolerance test costs range from $159 to $179 in different labs and facilities across the US. Prior appointment isn’t required. You can order tests online by comparing the price or visiting the nearest lab during lab business hours. You will get the results in your email in 2 to 3 business days after completing the procedure. Apart from this, doctor consultation is available for any kind of further treatment or medical advice.
The table below shows the lactose intolerance test provider and their prices. You can know more and book the test by clicking on the “Book Now” button. All the labs are CLIA-certified and offer a network across the US.
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Lactose intolerance test cost with insurance
Many insurance companies in the U.S. cover all the vital tests like a lactose intolerance test. However, the coverage provided by private health insurance companies and national health insurance programs like Medicare varies widely. Most of the health insurance policies cover lactose intolerance test costs only once or twice a year and when your physician orders more than twice in a year, you should pay the test cost out of pocket. So, you are recommended to check if your health insurance policy covers the lactose intolerance test cost.
Our lactose intolerance testing providers do not accept any kind of health insurance policy. However, they can provide you with an itemized receipt containing all the details viz the name of the test, code of the test, and CPT code which is necessary for insurance reimbursement purposes.
What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose is a sugar that is found in milk and other dairy products. When a person consumes food or drink containing lactose, an enzyme called lactase in the small intestine helps them digest the sugar. But in the case of lactose-intolerant people, they can’t digest these sugars. Lactose intolerance is not dangerous, but the symptoms can be troublesome. And lactose intolerance can cause gastrointestinal symptoms in 30 minutes to two hours after consuming milk or other dairy products containing lactose. Although there is no cure, many people can control the symptoms by making changes to their diet.
When the small intestine does not produce enough lactase to digest lactose it is called lactose intolerance. Lactase turns milk sugar into galactose and glucose. These are absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining and used for energy. When there is insufficient lactase, the lactose (in food) moves into the colon instead of being processed and absorbed. Bacteria in the colon interact with undigested lactose and causes the symptoms of it.
Types of lactose intolerance
- Primary lactose intolerance – People are born with enough lactase. Infants need the enzyme, lactase to digest their mother’s milk. As children replace milk with other foods and eat a more diverse diet and rely less on milk, the amount of lactase a person makes may decrease. However, it is high enough to digest the amount of dairy in a typical adult diet.
- Secondary lactose intolerance – Can occur when the small intestine decreases the production of lactase after an injury, illness, or surgery involving the small intestine. Diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, bacterial overgrowth, and Crohn’s disease can also cause lactose intolerance. Treatment may help to restore lactase levels and can improve the symptoms.
- Congenital/developmental lactose intolerance – Lactose intolerance is inherited in rare cases. A defective gene is transmitted from the parents to their children and it results in the complete absence of lactase in the child. As a result, the baby will be intolerant of breast milk. They may have diarrhea as soon as human milk or a formula containing lactose is introduced. The condition can be life-threatening when it is left untreated. However, it can be treated easily by giving the baby a lactose-free infant formula instead of milk. Due to an insufficient lactase level, even premature infants can also have lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance symptoms
Symptoms take place when there isn’t enough lactase being produced by the body to digest the lactose consumed. And people may experience symptoms between 30 minutes and two hours after eating or drinking a milk or dairy product. The severity of symptoms differs, depending on the amount of lactose a person can tolerate. Few people will be sensitive to small amounts of lactose-containing foods and others can consume larger amounts before they notice symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, it includes:
- Abdominal cramps
- Upset stomach
- Rumbling or growling sounds
- Watery stools
Certain factors can make a person more prone to lactose intolerance, it may include:
- Age – Lactase production decreases with age. So, there is a greater chance of developing lactose intolerance as you grow older. It usually appears in late childhood or early adulthood, and it is not common in infants and young children.
- Ethnicity – Lactose intolerance is common in Hispanic, African, Asian, and American Indian populations.
- Diseases affecting the small intestine – Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease can cause lactose intolerance. Because it leads to inflammation and atrophy of the villi in the small intestines and affects the production of lactase.
- Certain cancer treatments – Radiation therapy for cancer in the abdomen and intestinal complications from chemotherapy affects the lining of the small intestine. Hence, it may increase the risk of developing lactose intolerance.
- Premature birth – As the small intestines do not develop lactase-producing cells until the third-trimester infants born between 28 and 32 weeks of gestation have low levels of lactase.
- Genetics – A defective gene can be transmitted from the parents to a child. And can result in the absence of lactase in the child.
Test for lactose intolerance
Doctors suspect lactose intolerance based on the signs and response to reducing the number of dairy foods in the diet. And they can confirm the diagnosis by the following tests:
- Lactose intolerance test – This is a blood test that checks how the digestive system absorbs lactose. You will be asked not to eat or drink for about 8 hours before the test. During this test, you will drink a liquid that contains lactose. And blood samples will be taken over 2 hours and it will check the blood sugar level. When the blood sugar levels don’t rise, you may be lactose intolerant.
- Hydrogen breath test – This test measures the amount of hydrogen in the breath after consuming a drink high in lactose. When the body can’t digest the lactose, the bacteria in the intestine will break it down instead. The bacteria break down sugars like lactose, this process is called fermentation. Fermentation releases hydrogen and other gases, these are absorbed and exhaled eventually. The hydrogen breath test will indicate a higher-than-normal amount of hydrogen in the breath when you are not digesting lactose completely.
- Stool acidity test – This test is used for infants & young children. It measures the acid in the stool. The stool will have lactic acid, glucose, and other fatty acids when a person is not digesting lactose.
Lactose intolerance treatment
Currently, no treatment can help the body make more lactase. However, it is possible to manage the symptoms by changing the diet. The goal of the treatment is to control symptoms through dietary changes. It involves completely removing or decreasing milk products from the diet. People may use lactase enzyme supplements, which contain lactase, to break down the lactose in milk and milk products. It can also lower the chances of symptoms.
Consult a doctor or a registered dietitian who can help you plan a healthy diet that keeps you feeling good. Many people don’t need to stop eating all dairy they can still have up to 1/2 cup of milk without experiencing any symptoms. Making small changes in what you eat, may prevent symptoms and help your body digest dairy foods easier.
People who are not consuming dairy products and are lactose intolerant may become deficient in calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, and protein. Milk and milk products are some of the main sources of calcium and other nutrients. You need calcium to grow and have healthy bones.
But when a person doesn’t get enough calcium, their bones may become weak and more likely to break. This is referred to as osteoporosis. Eating foods that are either naturally high in calcium or are calcium-fortified or taking calcium supplements is recommended.
Which food contains lactose?
Dairy products that contain lactose include cow’s and goat’s milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream. And certain foods that have some kind of dairy as an ingredient may also contain lactose. It may include:
- Foods made with a milky sauce
- Biscuits and cookies
- Desserts and custards
- Bread and baked goods
- Breakfast cereals
- Instant soups and sauces
- Scrambled eggs
- Muesli bars
- Processed meats
- Sauces and gravies
- Potato chips
If you are trying to avoid lactose, you need to look for certain ingredients in lists on food labels. It includes milk solids, non-fat milk solids, whey, and milk sugar.
Although lactose intolerance cannot be prevented, the symptoms can be prevented by eating less dairy. Drinking fat-free milk or low-fat may result in fewer symptoms. You may try dairy milk alternatives like:
- Rice milk
Certain lifestyle tips can reduce your symptoms while increasing your nutrient intake. It includes:
- Add calcium-rich foods to the diet
- Boost health with calcium supplements
- Try having milk with meals
- Over-the-counter enzyme drops may eliminate painful symptoms
- Choose easier-to-digest dairy products
- Use lactose-free or reduced-lactose milk
- Switch to dairy-free products
A lactose intolerance test can be done in any of the following locations by visiting the lab near you. To know the lactose intolerance test cost, refer to the first section of the article.
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Frequently Asked Questions
Will insurance cover my testing cost?
No, insurance will not be covered in the billing. However, they will provide you with a receipt for insurance reimbursement purposes.
How should I book my appointment?
You can choose the most suitable provider from above and make an appointment by following the instructions mentioned by them.
Can I cancel my lab test order?
Yes, you can cancel your lab test order any time before your testing. A refund will be initiated after deducting the cancellation fee. However, cancellation is at the discretion of the provider.
Do the providers offer result interpretations?
Yes, a few providers may provide doctor consultation who will take you through the results and provide clarification if needed.
How do I receive my report?
To ensure your privacy, the test report will be mailed to you by the provider.
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