Treatments for Lactose Intolerance


Treatment list for Lactose Intolerance: The list of treatments mentioned in various sources for Lactose Intolerance includes the following list. Always seek professional medical advice about any treatment or change in treatment plans.

Treatments of Lactose Intolerance discussion: Fortunately, lactose intolerance is relatively easy to treat. No treatment exists to improve the body's ability to produce lactase, but symptoms can be controlled through diet.

Young children with lactase deficiency should not eat any foods containing lactose. Most older children and adults need not avoid lactose completely, but individuals differ in the amounts of lactose they can handle. For example, one person may suffer symptoms after drinking a small glass of milk, while another can drink one glass but not two. Others may be able to manage ice cream and aged cheeses, such as cheddar and Swiss but not other dairy products. Dietary control of lactose intolerance depends on each person's learning through trial and error how much lactose he or she can handle.

For those who react to very small amounts of lactose or have trouble limiting their intake of foods that contain lactose, lactase enzymes are available without a prescription. One form is a liquid for use with milk. A few drops are added to a quart of milk, and after 24 hours in the refrigerator, the lactose content is reduced by 70 percent. The process works faster if the milk is heated first, and adding a double amount of lactase liquid produces milk that is 90 percent lactose free. A more recent development is a chewable lactase enzyme tablet that helps people digest solid foods that contain lactose. Three to six tablets are taken just before a meal or snack.

Lactose-reduced milk and other products are available at many supermarkets. The milk contains all of the nutrients found in regular milk and remains fresh for about the same length of time or longer if it is super-pasteurized. 1

eat less of all foods with lactose. These foods include

Foods made with milk
Lactose is in milk and all foods made with milk, like

  • Ice cream.

  • Ice milk.

  • Sherbet.

  • Cream.

  • Butter.

  • Cheese.

  • Cottage cheese.

  • Yogurt.

Prepared foods
Lactose is added to some boxed, canned, frozen, and other prepared foods, like

  • Bread.

  • Cereal.

  • Lunch meats.

  • Salad dressings.

  • Mixes for cakes, cookies, pancakes, and biscuits.

  • Frozen dinners.

  • Nondairy coffee creamer.

pills or drops at a drug or grocery store to help you digest lactose. They are

  • Pills that you chew right before eating foods with lactose. These pills are called lactase enzyme caplets.

  • A liquid that you add to milk before drinking. The liquid is called lactase enzyme drops.
You can also

Drink a special milk with less lactose in it. You can buy this milk at the grocery store. It is called lactose-reduced milk. 2

milk and eating foods made with milk are the most common ways to get calcium. Calcium is important for good health. If you cannot eat or drink these foods, you may need to eat other foods with calcium:

  • Canned salmon with bones.

  • Sardines.

  • Collard greens.

  • Turnip greens.

  • Broccoli.

  • Tofu.

Also, ask your doctor if you should take a calcium tablet every day. 2

There are simple ways a person can deal with the uncomfortable symptoms of lactose intolerance. Although there is no known way to increase the amount of lactase in a person's body, there are supplements people can take before eating or drinking dairy products. These lactase supplements come in both liquid and pill form and are available over-the-counter at pharmacies and grocery stores. Lactose-reduced products also are available for most kinds of diary products, including milk, cheese, and ice cream.

The easiest and least expensive way to control symptoms is to avoid foods containing lactase. Adults can test the kinds and quantities of foods their systems are able to handle, then avoid the foods and amounts that produce bothersome symptoms. Infants and children, on the other hand, should not be given food that contains lactose if they have an allergy to milk products. Studies show that for people who have at least some lactase, they can increase tolerance to dairy products by introducing them gradually into the diet. Again, they also can eat more easily digested dairy products such as yogurt and aged cheese. 3

It is important to read the label of ingredients on foods since many foods other than those made with milk may contain lactose. Examples of these include: bakery products; cereals; instant potatoes, soups, and breakfast drinks; margarine; non-Kosher lunch meats; salad dressings; candies; mixes for pancakes, biscuits, and cookies; artificial sweeteners; hot chocolate mixes; cream cheese and peanut butter with milk solid filler; omelets, scrambled eggs and soufflés at restaurants; and gelatins made with an ingredient called carageenan. Many prescription drugs also contain lactose. A pharmacist can answer specific questions about which drugs contain lactose, but some of them include birth control pills and tablets for stomach acid and gas.3

Calcium is necessary for strong and healthy bones throughout life. A lack of calcium in the diet can lead to osteoporosis, or a condition of fragile, weakened bones that can break easily. Dairy products, like low-fat milk, are the best source of calcium. If you are lactose intolerant, it is important to have a diet that includes other foods high in calcium to meet the recommended daily amounts.

Other foods high in calcium include dark, green leafy vegetables, like kale and broccoli, fish like salmon, sardines, and oysters (or those with soft, edible bones), and tofu. Although these foods are high in calcium, the body cannot absorb it as easily as from milk. For instance, it takes 11-14 servings of kale a day to get the same amount of calcium in three to four glasses of milk3

1. excerpt from Lactose Intolerance: NIDDK
2. excerpt from Why Does Milk Bother Me: NIDDK
3. excerpt from Lactose Intolerance: NWHIC

Last revision: May 30, 2003

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