Lactose Intolerance

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Treatment

Lactose intolerance cannot be prevented or "cured" but it can be managed. Most people who have lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of dairy products. Affected individuals should discuss with their doctor or other health care provider actions that can be taken to avoid symptoms. Examples include:

  • Eating smaller amounts of dairy products spread throughout the day
  • Eat dairy products with other foods to slow their passage through the intestines
  • Eat dairy products that have lower lactose levels, such as yogurts and hard cheeses
  • Drink and eat lactose-reduced milk and other dairy products
  • Pills and liquids that contain the lactase enzyme are available and may be taken before or with meals to help digest any lactose present and avoid symptoms (supplements such as Lactaid®)
  • Substitute cow's milk with soy or rice milk, which do not contain lactose
  • Obtain calcium from other sources besides dairy products, such as spinach, broccoli, salmon, sardines, and dried beans; consider talking to your doctor about the need for calcium supplements.

Those who cannot tolerate even small amounts of lactose should be aware that it is present in many forms in processed foods and may appear as additives such as whey, dry milk solids, and milk by-products.

For individuals with underlying conditions that cause lactose intolerance, treatment and/or resolution of the underlying cause may improve or reverse the intolerance.

Babies who have been diagnosed with rare congenital lactose intolerance may need to be given special formulas that do not contain milk.

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