Symptoms of a gluten allergy and lactose intolerance can be so similar that it can be difficult to tell them apart. After eating foods that contain gluten or dairy, you may experience bloating and gas, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance affects 65 percent of the human population, and is not actually an allergy. Lactose intolerance occurs because the body cannot digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. Gluten sensitivity, which is sometimes considered celiac disease, has the same symptoms as lactose intolerance. The side effects of both are very uncomfortable, and can complicate your life. Changing your diet and food choices long-term can help you minimize or prevent allergy symptoms.
Method 1 of 2: Finding Food Sensitivity
Step 1. Consult a doctor if you think you have a food allergy
Your doctor will be able to advise you on the right diet, diagnostic tests, and treatment. It's best to visit an allergy specialist.
- Tell your doctor about your allergy symptoms. Although the symptoms of an allergy and food sensitivity are sometimes the same, you may experience the following symptoms of food sensitivity: a rash, itchy skin, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a drastic drop in blood pressure. Symptoms of a food allergy generally appear immediately after ingestion of food, and can be life-threatening.
- Don't avoid foods you suspect may be causing allergies until you consult with your doctor or a certified allergist nutritionist.
- Do not eat foods that may provoke a severe allergic reaction, unless directed by your doctor.
- If the allergy symptoms do not stop after eating the food that is suspected of causing the allergy, consult a doctor.
Step 2. Keep a food and symptom log
Keeping a record of all the foods, snacks and drinks you eat, as well as the symptoms you experience, will help you determine your sensitivity to certain foods. Without notes, you'll have a hard time knowing what foods are causing allergy symptoms.
- Make notes in handwritten form. Write down everything you take, including supplements or medications, and any symptoms you experience in a notebook. Most food journal apps don't provide enough space to record this.
- Do not forget to record the time of eating and the time of the occurrence of symptoms (if any). Common symptoms of food sensitivity include nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and flatulence.
- Also note the portion of the food you consume. Some people have severe lactose intolerance, which means they can't tolerate lactose at all, but others can tolerate small amounts of lactose. By keeping track of food portions, you can find out how much you can eat a particular food without side effects.
Step 3. Eat as usual for two weeks
To find out what foods cause allergies in the body, you must eat these foods. You must "fish" the allergy in order to associate your symptoms with certain foods. After associating your symptoms with a food, avoid the food to see if your symptoms subside.
- You may find it difficult to continue with your normal diet, but "fishing" for allergy symptoms can help you figure out what food is causing the allergy. Once you've avoided certain foods and recovered from allergy symptoms, you'll be able to figure out the food allergen.
- You may experience one or more allergy symptoms. Symptoms are generally felt 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion of food.
- Common symptoms of food sensitivity include nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and flatulence.
- If your allergy symptoms are life-threatening, don't eat the food you suspect is causing the allergy. You can try foods that are suspected of causing allergies under the supervision of a doctor in a safe environment.
Step 4. Know which foods contain lactose, and avoid them
If you are lactose intolerant, your symptoms will go away once you avoid lactose.
- Milk and dairy products contain lactose. Foods made from milk or made with milk also contain a certain amount of lactose.
- Check the composition of the food before buying it. Dairy products that contain lactose include whey, caseinate, malted milk, milk derivatives, and powdered milk. These products are generally used as basic ingredients for various types of food.
- Avoid antacids. Generally, antacids contain lactose so it will actually make things worse for the body. If necessary, contact your doctor to find out other medicines that you can take to reduce stomach acid.
- If your allergy symptoms don't go away after 2 weeks of avoiding lactose, you may have a sensitivity to other foods. After 2 weeks, you can eat dairy products again.
- If you experience allergy symptoms after returning to milk, you may experience sensitivity to more than two types of food, one of which is milk. Therefore, avoid milk and its products.
Step 5. Know which foods contain gluten, and avoid them
If your body is sensitive to gluten, your symptoms will go away once you avoid gluten.
- Wheat and food products from wheat contain gluten. Other grains, such as barley and rye, also contain gluten. You may find it difficult to avoid gluten, because gluten is present in a variety of foods, such as milk, beer, baked goods, and pasta.
- Check the composition of the food before buying it. Gluten may be added to food because of its function. Be aware of ingredients such as vital wheat gluten, gluten starch, or gluten. Malt also contains gluten, and is commonly used to enhance the taste of processed foods (such as soy sauce). Other food ingredients that contain gluten include Atta flour, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham, wheat bran, wheat germ, wheat starch, triticale, and matzoh.
- If your allergy symptoms don't go away after 2 weeks of avoiding gluten, you may have a sensitivity to other foods. After 2 weeks, you can take gluten products again.
- If you experience allergy symptoms after returning to gluten, you may experience sensitivity to more than two types of food, one of which is gluten. Therefore, avoid gluten and its products.
Step 6. Perform one of the following three lactose tolerance tests if necessary, or as recommended by a doctor
- A blood test will measure the body's ability to digest lactose. During the test, you will be asked to drink a lactose solution, and your blood will be drawn several times over a period of time. This test is generally recommended for adults.
- The hydrogen breathing test will measure the amount of hydrogen when you breathe in. The more hydrogen you excrete, the better your body can digest lactose. This test is non-invasive and is generally recommended for adults.
- The stool acidity test is done after consuming lactose. The more acidic the stool, the harder it is for the body to digest lactose. This test is generally performed on children.
- Unfortunately, there is no diagnostic test for gluten sensitivity. Therefore, gluten sensitivity can only be "diagnosed" by the method of elimination. If allergy symptoms go away or decrease after you stop eating gluten, you may have gluten sensitivity.
Method 2 of 2: Maintaining a Healthy and Balanced Diet when Suffering from Food Sensitivity
Step 1. Consult a registered dietitian
You may find it difficult to live life after experiencing a food allergy/sensitivity, especially if you are allergic/sensitive to more than one type of food. Because of this, you may choose a restricted diet, or even be afraid of food so you don't maintain a healthy diet. A nutritionist can help you find the right diet.
- Avoiding food allergens is the only way to treat food sensitivities. However, a diet that is too limited may not be sufficient to meet the body's essential nutritional needs.
- Check your medical history, the food you suspect is the cause of the allergy, and a food/allergy symptom record with a dietician. A dietitian can help you find diet and meal replacements that won't "provoke" an allergic reaction.
Step 2. Continue to keep a food and symptom journal, even if you already know the food that is causing the allergy
In addition to helping yourself, your journal can also help other health professionals as you adjust your diet.
- A symptom and food journal will also be of great help to allergists, nutritionists, and other professionals. They may find certain patterns in the journal, which you are not aware of.
- If you experience symptoms of an allergy again, read a journal to see what food is causing it. After that, avoid the food, or find a substitute.
Step 3. Eat lactose-free foods
The best way to deal with lactose intolerance is to avoid foods that contain lactose to prevent symptoms in the long term. However, replacing the nutritional intake that the body needs from lactose products is very important.
- Products containing lactose are generally rich in calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. You can get these nutrients from other foods, such as broccoli, canned salmon, whole fruit juices, pinto beans, and spinach.
- Consume low-lactose or lactose-free milk, yogurt and cheese. These products may be hard to find, and they may taste different from regular milk/yogurt/cheese, but they are good substitutes. Vegan products, such as vegan cheese, are also lactose-free, so you can choose from when buying dairy-based products.
- Take lactate enzyme supplements. This supplement is available in pill form, and is taken before consuming lactose products to help the body digest lactose products. This product is sold in most drug stores and health food stores.
Step 4. Eat gluten-free foods
The best way to deal with gluten sensitivity is to avoid foods that contain gluten to prevent symptoms in the long term. However, replacing the nutritional intake that the body needs from gluten products is very important.
- The most common source of gluten is wheat, followed by barley and rye. All three are rich in folate, thiamine, riboflavin, and other B vitamins. Fortunately, you can replace your intake of B vitamins from other foods, such as protein foods. You can also eat foods that don't contain gluten but contain B vitamins, such as quinoa, teff, amaranth, rice, corn, and buckwheat.
- Today, gluten-free packaged foods are available, such as pasta, muffins, bread, cake flour, waffles, pancakes, etc., which are sold in most supermarkets.
- There are no supplements or medications that can treat symptoms of gluten sensitivity.
Step 5. If you plan to avoid foods that contain gluten or lactose, contact your doctor for a prescription supplement
You may need to replace vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients commonly found in foods with gluten/lactose.
- You can take a variety of over-the-counter vitamins and minerals to replace nutrients from the foods you're avoiding.
- Remember that you are not recommended to meet nutritional needs with supplements. The best source of nutrition comes from food.
- Consult a doctor before taking vitamins/minerals to ensure safety.
- Don't forget to consult your doctor before avoiding certain foods or diagnosing yourself with allergies.
- Many medicines are made with ingredients that contain gluten or lactose. Make sure you contact your pharmacist before taking any new medication.
- You are not recommended to follow a restricted diet in the long term. Only avoid consumption of foods that cause allergies.