Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose Intolerance

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance, or lactase deficiency, is the body´s inability to digest the milk sugar (called lactose) found in dairy products. Lactase is an enzyme made from the lining of the small intestine and is made up of two kinds of sugar gluose and galactose. Patients with lactase deficiency do not have enough of the enzyme lactose to break these two sugars apart before digestion.

What causes lactose intolerance?

There are essentially three types of lactose intolerance:

  • Primary lactose intolerance - develops in early childhood with milk as the primary source of calcium
  • Secondary lactose intolerance - develops after illness, surgery or injury to your small intestine, the small intestine decreases the amount of lactase developed. This type of intolerance may not be long lasting and in some cases can be reversible.
  • Congenital lactose intolerance - although this is a rare disorder it is inherited, and family history plays a big part in diagnosing the severity of the condition.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

  • Bloating
  • Pain or cramping
  • Gurgling (rumbling) sounds in the stomach
  • Passing gas
  • Loose stools or diarrhea
  • Vomiting

What are the treatment options for lactose intolerance?

The treatment options for lactose intolerance will differ depending on the severity of the patient´s condition. Some suggestions may include the patient to:

  • Limit the amount of dairy products ingested
  • Consume dairy products in combination with other foods
  • Consume dairy products throughout the day instead of all at once
  • Consume products that have less lactose in them (such as lactose-free products)

When changing your diet routine be mindful of the types of foods that may contain lactose, especially if you have severe lactose deficiency you might want to avoid them when possible:

  • Breads
  • Baked goods
  • Cereals
  • Shakes (breakfast drinks)
  • Potatoes
  • Some soups
  • Pancakes
  • Cookies
  • Margarine
  • Salad dressings
  • Sweets (especially chocolate candies)
  • Mike chocolate
  • Dry milk solids
  • Whey
  • Curds
  • Milk by-products
  • Nonfat dry milk powder