with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest the sugar
(lactose) in milk. As a result, they have diarrhea, gas and
bloating after eating or drinking dairy products.
condition, which is also called lactose malabsorption, is
usually harmless, but its symptoms can be uncomfortable.
deficiency of lactase — an enzyme produced in your small
intestine — is usually responsible for lactose intolerance.
Many people have low levels of lactase but are able to digest
milk products without problems. If you’re actually lactose
intolerant, though, your lactase deficiency leads to symptoms
after you eat dairy foods.
people with lactose intolerance can manage the condition
without having to give up all dairy foods.
some trial and error, you may be able to predict your body’s
response to different foods containing lactose and figure out
how much you can eat or drink without discomfort. Few people
have such severe lactose intolerance that they have to cut out
all milk products and be wary of nondairy foods or medications
that contain lactose.
signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance usually begin 30
minutes to two hours after eating or drinking foods that
contain lactose. Common signs and symptoms include:
Nausea, and sometimes, vomiting
change your diet to minimize symptoms of lactose intolerance
Limit dairy products
people with lactose intolerance can enjoy some milk products
without symptoms. It may be possible to increase your
tolerance to dairy products by gradually introducing them into
your diet. Some people find that they can tolerate full-fat
dairy products, such as whole milk and cheese, more easily
than dairy products with no or reduced fat.
Choosing smaller servings of dairy. Sip small servings of milk
— up to 4 ounces (118 milliliters) at a time. The smaller
the serving, the less likely it is to cause gastrointestinal
Saving milk for mealtimes. Drink milk with other foods. This
slows the digestive process and may lessen symptoms of lactose
Experimenting with an assortment of dairy products. Not all
dairy products have the same amount of lactose. For example,
hard cheeses, such as Swiss or cheddar, have small amounts of
lactose and generally cause no symptoms. You may be able to
tolerate cultured milk products, such as yogurt, because the
bacteria used in the culturing process naturally produce the
enzyme that breaks down lactose.
Buying lactose-reduced or lactose-free products. You can find
these products at most supermarkets in the refrigerated dairy
Using lactase enzyme tablets or drops. Over-the-counter
tablets or drops containing the lactase enzyme (Dairy Ease,
Lactaid, others) may help you digest dairy products. You can
take tablets just before a meal or snack. Or the drops can be
added to a carton of milk. Not everyone with lactose
intolerance is helped by these products.
the dairy products doesn’t mean you can’t get enough
calcium. Calcium is found in many other foods, such as:
Calcium-fortified products, such as breads and juices
substitutes, such as soy milk and rice milk
make sure you get enough vitamin D, which is typically
supplied in fortified milk. Eggs, liver and yogurt also
contain vitamin D, and your body makes vitamin D when you
spend time in the sun. Even without restricting dairy foods,
though, many adults don’t get enough vitamin D. Talk to your
doctor about taking vitamin D and calcium supplements to be
SEE A DOCTOR
appointment with your doctor if you frequently have symptoms
of lactose intolerance after eating dairy foods, particularly
if you’re worried about getting enough calcium.