Lactose Intolerance

Signs & Symptoms   |    Causes   |    Treatment   |    Questions to Ask   |    Self-Care/Prevention

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Lactose is the natural sugar in milk. A person with lactose intolerance lacks enough of the enzyme, lactase, to digest this sugar.

Signs & Symptoms

•  Nausea.

•  Cramps.

•  Bloating.

•  Gas.

•  Diarrhea.

These symptoms start about 30 minutes to 2 hours after you eat or drink foods with lactose.

How Aging Effects Digestion

•  The body can’t make the enzyme lactase. This can occur from birth or over time.

•  Digestive diseases.

•  Injury to the small intestine.

Asian Americans, African Americans, and American Indians are more prone to lactose intolerance.


Symptoms can be controlled with self-care measures.

Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

•  Eat fewer dairy foods. Some people with lactose intolerance can tolerate dairy foods if they have small amounts at a time.

•  Have lactose-free dairy products. Have ones that reduce lactose with bacterial cultures. Examples are buttermilk, yogurt, and acidophilus milks.

•  Take over-the-counter drops or pills that have the enzyme lactase when you have dairy foods.

•  If the above measures don’t help, don’t have products with milk, milk solids, and dairy whey. Have soy milk instead. Products marked “parve” are milk free.

•  Read food labels. Many food products contain small amounts of lactose. These include bread and other baked goods, instant mashed potatoes, breakfast and diet drinks and bars, and mixes for biscuits, cookies, and pancakes.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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