Lactose Intolerance

Digestive Disorder

What Does Lactose Intolerance Mean?

Lactose Intolerance means the body cannot easily digest lactose, a type of natural sugar found in milk and dairy products.

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance occurs when your small intestine doesn't produce enough of an enzyme (lactase) to digest milk sugar (lactose). Normally, lactase turns milk sugar into two simple sugars, glucose and galactose, which are absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining. If you're lactase deficient, lactose in your food moves into the colon instead of being processed and absorbed. In the colon, normal bacteria interact with undigested lactose, causing the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Symptoms

  • Bloating
  • Pain or cramps in the lower belly
  • Gurgling or rumbling sounds in the lower belly
  • Gas
  • Loose stools or diarrhea
  • Throwing up

Treatments

  • Limit the amount of milk and milk products in your diet
  • Eat or drink milk and milk products along with other foods

Who's Affected?

Most of the time people are diagnosed as a child.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can children grow out of lactose intolerance?

It is possible for children to grow out of lactose intolerance, but most children who are intolerant to lactose are intolerant for life. Children grow out of their intolerance if it is a result of an acute illness, in which case the individual will recover lactose levels after a few months.

How is lactose intolerance diagnosed?

A doctor can usually tell whether you have lactose intolerance by asking questions about your symptoms. He or she may also ask that you avoid dairy products for a short time to see if your symptoms improve. Sometimes doctors order a hydrogen breath test or a blood sugar test to confirm the diagnosis. These simple tests check to see if you are digesting lactose normally.