Home Healthy Living Signs of Lactose Intolerance That You Should Look For

Signs of Lactose Intolerance That You Should Look For

Verified By Apollo General Physician August 18, 2020 5254 0

Lactose intolerance occurs when small intestine does not produce enough lactase, an enzyme to digest sugar in the milk (lactose). If you or your loved ones are lactase deficient, the lactose in the food moves into your colon instead of getting processed and absorbed. And, in your colon, the normal bacteria interact with undigested lactose, leading to the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance can be confirmed if you have any stomach discomfort after thirty- two hours of milk consumption. Discomforts include bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and pain.

Lactose intolerance occurs due to factors such as age, genetics, and intestinal diseases. There is no cure for lactose intolerance, but you can reduce the after-effects with some precautionary methods.

Understanding Lactose Intolerance

The inability to digest the sugar in the dairy products is called lactose intolerance. This digestive disorder is not lethal to human beings but creates discomfort in the digestive system.

When we drink milk, our body synthesizes lactase enzymes in the small intestine to digest it. Lactose is the sugar present in the milk and lactase enzyme acts on it and converts it into glucose and galactose. Glucose and galactose are absorbed into the small intestine and reach the bloodstream.

If the lactase enzyme is not synthesized sufficiently in our body, then the digestion of lactose is improper. Undigested lactose reaches the small intestine, and the  bacteria present in the small intestine converts lactose into organic acids and by-products. This results in diarrhea, bloating, and Stomach cramps in our body.


Lactose intolerance can be identified if you have the following symptoms after consuming dairy products .

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • A bloated stomach
  • Passing wind often
  • Tiredness

The severity of lactose intolerance symptoms may vary based on the number of dairy products consumed and your body’s ability to digest lactose. Some people can drink a glass of milk every day without any symptoms. Some cannot digest even a few milliliters of milk.


There are two types of lactose intolerance – the Primary Intolerance and Secondary Intolerance.

Primary Intolerance: This is the most common type of intolerance caused by decrease in lactase enzyme synthesis. Primary lactose intolerance occurs due to age and ethnicity. Around 40% of people have primary lactose intolerance.

Secondary intolerance: This type of lactose intolerance occurs when the small intestine decreases production of lactase after an injury, illness, or surgery in your small intestine. Diseases linked to secondary lactose intolerance include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, intestinal infection and bacterial overgrowth. Treatment of an underlying disorder may restore lactase levels and progress signs and symptoms, though it may take time.

Congenital or Developmental Lactose Intolerance

Although rare, it’s possible for children to be born with lactose intolerance due to lack of lactase. This disease is passed from one generation to another in a pattern of inheritance known as autosomal recessive, meaning both mother and father should pass on the same gene variant to the child to become affected. Premature babies can also have lactose intolerance owing to an insufficient lactase level


Milk and dairy products contain calcium, vitamins A, B12, D, and proteins. The absorption of zinc and magnesium are influenced by lactose. If you are lactose intolerant, then getting these minerals in the body is reduced and may lead to osteopenia, osteoporosis, and malnutrition.

Risk Factors

  1. Age:  Infants need more lactase enzyme for digestion, and thus infants and children’s bodies secrete enough amounts of lactase. As they reach adulthood, lactase requirement reduces, and lactose intolerance symptoms occur.
  2. Premature infants: Since lactase-producing cells are developed only in the last trimester of pregnancy, infants born prematurely have more chances for lactose intolerance.
  3. Small intestinal diseases: diseases affecting the functioning of the small intestine can cause lactose intolerance. Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and bacterial overload will affect lactase synthesis and lactose (disaccharide) conversion into monosaccharide.
  4. Ethnicity: Lactose intolerance is common in people of African, East Asian, American Indian descent. They have a reduced level of lactose digestion.


Treatment will improve the body’s condition and help you to tolerate lactose. The treatment process requires months for complete recovery. If lactose intolerance has not reduced, then following a low- lactose diet will help.

We can reduce lactose intolerance in our body by reducing the number of dairy products consumed and using lactose- free products like soya milk, cheese, and nut milk.

Enzyme supplements are found to be effective for patients with lactose intolerance. However, its effect is found to vary from person to person. For a high amount of lactose intake, enzyme supplements will not work.

Prebiotics and probiotics are found to reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance and are effective for some patients.


Through trial and error methods, you can find out which foods are causing discomfort. If the lactose intolerance is high, then you have to avoid milk products.

You can consume non-dairy products rich in  protein, vitamin D, and minerals similar to milk. Broccoli, cereals, juices, fish, soy milk, almonds are  good sources of calcium. These substitutes should be added copiously  to your diet. There are many calcium-fortified foods as well with a rich calcium concentration that can provide a daily intake of 1000mg per day.

Probiotics will help you to digest the lactose present in the stomach and convert them into simple sugar.

Dietary regulations

Dietary regulations are very important for lactose intolerant people.

  • Lactose free milk , nut milk , and soy milk can be used instead of milk
  • You can consume low- lactose dairy products like yogurt.
  • If you want to drink milk, you can have it with other foods. By slowing the digestion process, you can reduce the lactose intolerance symptoms.
  • Having smaller portions of milk will help you reduce the gastric problems—approximately 100 ml per serving.
  • Some over-the-counter lactase enzyme tablets are available. You can use them to help milk digestion. Tablets can be consumed either before a meal or along with milk.
  • Almonds, kale, soy milk, egg, liver, tofu, beans, and fish are rich in protein, vitamin D, and minerals, equal to milk. Boned fishes are high in calcium, and having seafood frequently in your diet will compensate for calcium requirements in the body.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

  1. Can you suddenly become lactose intolerant?

No, we cannot become lactose intolerant rapidly. Lactose intolerance, meaning the inability to digest the sugar present in dairy products, occurs gradually. Many factors govern lactose intolerance.

  1. What causes you to become lactose intolerant?

Lactose intolerance occurs because of ethnicity, age, premature birth  and small intestine diseases.

Verified By Apollo General Physician
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