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Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance refers to the inability to fully digest foods and beverages that contain lactose. Lactose is a sugar that is found in milk and dairy products. When we eat foods that contain lactose, enzymes in our digestive systems called lactase break it down to be digested. If a person does not produce enough lactase, the lactose goes undigested and is fermented by the normal bacteria found in the intestine. This can lead to symptoms, which include nausea, cramping, bloating, pain, intestinal gas and diarrhea. Symptoms may appear any time from 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating milk or milk-products. However, not all individuals who have a lactase deficiency experience symptoms of lactose intolerance.

If you see any of these ingredients on a food label, it indicates the product contains some lactose: milk, whey, curds, dry milk solids, dry milk powder, lactose, milk by-products, cream, butter, evaporated milk, condensed milk, margarine, cheese, sodium caseinate, milk derivative.

Each individualís tolerance level to lactose is different. Individuals who experience lactose intolerance can often eat small amounts of milk and dairy products and therefore, usually do not need to completely eliminate these foods.

It is important for individuals with lactose intolerance to ensure they are getting adequate calcium and vitamin D in their diet. These two nutrients, which are found in dairy products, are essential to maintain bone health. Choosing lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk and milk products in which lactase enzymes have been added to break down the lactose is an option for individuals with lactose intolerance. In addition, choosing non-dairy, calcium-rich foods and foods containing or fortified with vitamin D, which helps increase calcium absorption, is important.

If you suspect you may be lactose intolerant, talk to your doctor or health care provider about symptoms and testing for lactose intolerance.

For more information visit:
Lactose Intolerance - International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
Lactose Intolerance - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases
Problems Digesting Dairy Products? (FDA)
Lactose Intolerance - Cleveland Clinic

1. Lactose Intolerance. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. National Institutes of Health. Published May 2014. Last Updated June 4, 2014. Accessed August 10, 2015.

2. Problems Digesting Dairy Products? Consumer Health Information. October 2009. Accessed August 10, 2015.