All About Lactose Intolerance

”Wariing sign of lactose intolerance"
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Lactose intolerance is a common digestive condition where a person’s metabolism is unable to break down the disaccharide sugar (lactose) present in dairy products. This condition develops when there is an absence or deficiency of lactase, the principal enzyme responsible for digesting lactose in the small intestine.

The ability to digest milk sugars starts to deplete during infancy. According to reports, a quarter of the US population experience decreased lactose tolerance as soon as the phase of weaning begins. There are several underlying reasons behind the development of lactose intolerance and it can be developed at any point in time as one ages.

Are Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergies One and the Same Thing?

Many people confuse both of these digestive issues because of the common denominator of milk and dairy products. However, both of these conditions are absolutely dissimilar in many ways. Lactose intolerance occurs because of the absence of the digestive enzyme while a milk allergy is a digestive allergic reaction to the protein present in dairy products.

Moreover, milk allergies are more severe with its symptoms as compared to lactose intolerance and it is also less prevalent.

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

As we have discussed, the condition of lactose intolerance develops when the body is unable to develop sufficient amount of lactase. There are multiple reasons that can lead this deficiency.

Primary Lactase Deficiency

In the majority of the cases, primary lactase deficiency is the reason behind lactose intolerance. This type of intolerance happens due to a genetic mutation passing on through the generations.

Secondary Lactase Deficiency

Secondary lactase deficiency underlines the problem in the small intestine. This type of intolerance can occur at any age. Several medical conditions can lead to the development of secondary lactase deficiency.

  • Celiac disease:  Adverse reaction to gluten causing bowel issues
  • Gastroenteritis: Infection of the digestive tract and the stomach
  • Crohn’s disease: An enduring inflammatory condition of the lining of the digestive tract
  • Ulcerative Colitis: A disease affecting the large intestine

Chemotherapy and long-term administration of antibiotics can also lead to the development of secondary lactase deficiency.

Lactose intolerance caused by secondary lactase deficiency is often temporary in nature. Nevertheless, they can transform into a permanent condition if the underlying cause is severe.


The initial diagnosis of lactose intolerance is very simple. If someone experiences abdominal conditions such as bloating, cramps and pain within two hours of ingesting any dairy product then the chances of acquiring lactose intolerance is quite possible. To be certain about whether or not you are suffering from lactose intolerance, a simple clinical diagnostic test can be conclusive. It is called hydrogen breath test and is used to identify various complications of the digestive system.


Unfortunately, there is no definite treatment available to treat lactose intolerance. In most of the cases, patients have to cut down their dietary consumption to protect themselves from digestive disruptions. Nevertheless, there are two treatment methods that are used by some people to alleviate the symptoms.

Administration of Lactase-containing Medications

OTC tablets and pills are available that contain lactase. These medications can be administered before the consumption of dairy products to limit the detrimental effects of lactose intolerance. But this treatment is not a long-lasting solution and it is not equally effective for every patient.

Administration of Probiotics

Administration of probiotics can also help in alleviating the adverse effects of lactose intolerance. According to a research study on a group of volunteers with lactose intolerance, more than two-thirds of them reported reduced abdominal cramps and pain after taking probiotics for more than one month.

Reconditioning of the Digestive System

In comparison to the above-mentioned provisional treatment options, a better measure is to recondition your digestive system to tolerate some amount of dairy products. One study suggests that in three week’s time, a person can recondition his/her digestive system to tolerate up to 250 milliliters of milk.

Dietary Alternatives

American CheeseDairy products are rich in Vitamin D and calcium. Both of these micronutrients are essential for the vitality of the exoskeleton of a person. A study was concluded that people suffering from lactose intolerance experience low levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream because of a complete absence of dairy products from their diet.

Therefore, it is imperative to get the essential nutritional content of dairy products from alternate resources.  Here, we are mentioning some of the dietary items that should be considered by people suffering from lactose intolerance.

Lactase-added milk: They are easily available in some grocery stores. Lactose in these dairy products is already broken down. So, lactose intolerant individuals can easily consume it in order to intake all the nutrients of milk without incurring any digestive issues.

Soy milk: Calcium makes bones strong and this mineral is abundant in milk. To get sufficient supply of calcium, soy milk is a better substitute for people with lactose intolerance. However, it is not suitable for people with milk allergies.

Dairy products with less lactose: Yogurt is a good substitute for people suffering from lactose intolerance because it contains less amount of lactose. Fermenting bacteria in yogurt have already eaten most of the lactose. Similarly, cheese is also a better substitute to get dairy nutrition.

Calcium-rich non-dairy products: To compensate the deficiency of calcium, one can increase the consumption of calcium-rich plants in their diet. Spinach, broccoli and other green vegetables have sufficient amount of calcium in them to compensate. Moreover, fish is also a good source to fulfill your calcium needs.

Before adding any of these products in your dietary routine, it is always a sensible move to consult your physician if you are suffering from lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance is surely undesirable, but it doesn’t have disabling characteristics. By taking care of your diet and fulfilling your calcium and vitamin D needs from other food sources, you can make the negative effects of lactose intolerance more tolerable.  

Note: The advice contained within this article is suggestive and is for informational purposes only. The information contained in this article should not be followed without the prior consultation of a medical professional!

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