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Lactose Intolerance

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.


Lactose intolerance

is when your body does not produce enough enzymes to properly digest lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and other dairy foods. Lactose intolerance can lead to low levels of calcium if you do not eat or drink enough dairy foods.

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

Call your doctor for the following:

  • Continued symptoms, even after you make suggested changes
  • Questions or concerns about your condition or care

Manage lactose intolerance:

  • Limit or avoid dairy foods. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you avoid dairy foods at first. Then, you can slowly introduce them back into your diet. You may find that you can eat small amounts of dairy foods at one time.
  • Eat and drink lactose-free or low-lactose foods. Try lactose-free, almond, rice, or soy milk. Infants with lactose intolerance may need to drink a lactose-free formula. Low-lactose foods include aged cheese (Swiss, cheddar, or parmesan), cream cheese, cottage cheese, or ricotta cheese. Read labels on all foods carefully because lactose is found in many foods. Ask your dietitian for more information about how to avoid or limit foods that contain lactose.
  • Avoid eating a dairy food by itself. You may be able to tolerate dairy foods better if you have them with other non-dairy foods. For example, have milk with cereal or cheese with crackers.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about enzyme supplements. You may be able to tolerate some dairy foods if you take an enzyme supplement (lactase tablet) right before you eat the dairy food.
  • Get enough calcium. If you eat very little or no dairy foods, you need to get calcium and vitamin D from other sources. Other foods that contain calcium include sardines, canned salmon, tofu, shellfish, dried beans, and almonds. Kale, spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, almonds, and calcium-fortified orange juice also contain calcium. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to take calcium supplements.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.