Lactose is two sugars linked, a mixture of glucose and galactose. Lactose is contained naturally in all milk produced by mammals (goat’s milk, cow’s milk, human breast milk), and other dairy products. Lactose is made up around 2-8% of milk (by weight) with the amount varying among species and individuals. Quantity of lactose in milk varies with varying amount existing. Lactose can be got from sweet or sour whey. Lactase is the enzyme responsible for the breaking down of lactose to enable the body to absorb and use it. In most mammals, the production of lactase progressively declines with maturity due to a lack of continuing ingestion. The lactase enzyme is found on the superficial of the intestine cells where it is defenseless to intestinal injury. Some peoole are born with no or low levels of lactase resulting to congenital alactasia or hypolactasia. The ievels of lactase enzymes are highest in young children and reduces with time.

Milk and lactose intoleranceFoods that contain lactose can include any of the following: baked products (bread and cakes), pancake and cookie mix (both homemade and readymade packets), soups and smoothies, instant mash potato, butters and margarine, crisps and other processed snack foods, various dressings {salad dressing or mayonnaise), and processed cereals.


Lactose intolerance results when the body cannot breakdown lactose correctly especially in adults. It’s important to note the dissimilarity between milk allergy and lactose intolerance. Milk allergy is a food allergy. An adverse immune reaction to a food protein that is usually mild to a non-allergic person. Lactose intolerance is a non-allergic food sensitivity which results from a lack of production of the enzyme lactase, required to breakdown the sugar in milk. From estimate, 7% of the population in the world is lactose intolerant. Knowing this, one can avoid milk or take lactase supplement to enable the digestion of the milk sugars. When it is milk allergy, all milk products must be shunned. Lactose intolerance is usually identified on symptoms of gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea that occur within sometime, after the eating of dairy products. People with lactose intolerance may go through several gastrointestinal indications when they eat lactose in foods and beverages. Lactose intolerance is more shared in people of certain ethnicities, but can also occur momentarily after a short period of gastroenteritis. This type of lactose insufficiency can be present at any age, but not more likely so in infants. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include nausea, joint pain, flatulence, stomach cramps, swelling and diarrhea {most severe). Most lactose tolerant people can typically tolerate yogurt quite well. Once the digestive system is repaired, the body will produce enough of the lactose digestion enzymes by itself, and permanently prevent lactose intolerance symptoms without the need for a lactose free diet or spending on costly lactase digestive enzymes.

There are two tests, doctor may order to diagnose:

Hydrogen breath test: Most accurate lactose intolerance test. The patient is asked to avoid certain foods, medicines and cigarettes before the test. On the test day, one will be required to drink a liquid that contains lactose, thereafter breathe into a machine several times over a specified period. If the hydrogen levels are high, there is lactose intolerance. Babies and very young infants are excluded from this type of test.

Lactose tolerance test: It measures one’s blood sugar after eating or drinking lactose. One is required not to eat or drink anything the night prior to the test. On the test day, one will be required to drink a liquid that contains lactose, which may cause gas or pain in the belly. Thereafter, the blood will be tested every thirty minutes for two hours. If the blood sugar levels remain static, one may be lactose-intolerant. Babies, very young children and people with diabetes are excluded from this test.


Major cause of lactose intolerance is allergy to dairy products. It would have been noticed in early childhood and it is expected that a person grow up with it. Some other causes of the intolerance are injury to the small intestine, infection after severe gastroenteritis, medication, radiation, malnutrition, food intolerance, and overgrowth of bad bacteria.


Lactose intoleranceThe symptoms of lactose intolerance is more visible in adults when the bodies cannot produce enough lactase. Lactose deficiency is classified into three:

Permanent intolerance

This is hereditary and it is noticed when a specific ethnic group society does not consume dairy products at all. The young ones cannot tolerate it as well.

Secondary intolerance

This type of condition is temporary, and is triggered by lactase enzyme insufficiency in a patient’s gut. The main symptom of the disease is nausea, which grows after the eating of milk products.

Congenital lactase disorder

Congenital lactase disorder is a genetic health problem usually diagnosed in infancy. Some infants are genetically predisposed to this disease and develop symptoms since birth. Age is one of the main factors as the disease may worsen in with time. Same other symptoms include runny nose, swollen eyes, rashes, vomiting, swelling throat, difficulty in breathing, persistent diarrhea, stomach swelling, pains in the abdomen region, sickness, contractions in the stomach, excessive gas that makes sitting in place very painful. When lactase is absent and huge amount of lactose is consumed, these symptoms can be more severe. These symptoms vary in severity among people.


These symptoms can be frustrating as it affects the quality of a person’s life and needs to be attended to, to prevent potential complications. People suffering from this condition see their doctors, and perform test for the disorder. These tests use breath or stool samples to look for higher than normal hydrogen levels in the blood. Avoiding dairy completely is the best treatment for lactose intolerance. Some other treatments are:


Avoid milk completely

One must abstain from milk and milk products when intolerant to lactose. Avoid products containing milk such as milk, ice cream, cheese, cream, yogurt and powdered milk. Avoid all dairy for safety.

Stay alert when purchasing at the store

There are items in the store that have the label of being ‘dairy free’. Check the ingredients really rather than just throwing them into the cart. One should not be surprised to find out that some of these products contain milk products.

Confirm all the ingredients in prescribed medications

Lactose is found in drugs as well. Seek for advice from your doctor to ensure that the prescriptions will not exacerbate one’s lactose intolerance. One should as well confirm for both supplements and vitamins too.

Feeding on lactose enzyme can enhance one

Keeping lactose enzymes with one most times is important if one is planning on living with lactose intolerance. There are pills that will aid one to better digest lactose which can be bought from over-the-counter, e.g Lactaid. This allows one to still eat some dairy products. It should be made available at all times as it’s a simple way to adapt with lactose intolerance.

Eat dairy products with other food

For example, a glass of milk or piece of cheese can be taken with other food which allows the body more time to digest the lactose. The body can stimulate more of the natural lactase enzyme to digest a small snack of dairy and another food throughout the day more easily than consuming a large amount at once. Calcium is most important for pregnant women, children, women after menopause and teens. There are many nondairy foods that contain calcium, such as broccoli, cereals, okra, kale, collards, and turnip greens, canned sardines, tuna, and salmon, calcium-fortified juices, calcium-fortified soy products (soybeans, tofu, soy milk, and almonds).

Eat yogurt

Lactose intolerance and yogurt

Yogurt with live cultures help digest the lactose. Most people who get symptoms with regular dairy products do not consume it with yogurt.

Supplement lactase enzymes

One can add few drops to the milk about 24 hours ahead of consuming it as these enzymes breakdown the lactose in the milk that it neutralizes the product by the time one drinks it. One can as well consume some chewable lactase enzymes which one can take each time one eats. One can easily get these in most pharmacies and also in health food stores in capsules as Lactobacillus strains (containing bulgaricus, acidophilus, plantarium, and reuteri) and Streptococcus strains (containing salivarius and thermophiles).

Attempt lactose-reduced milk

These products can be found in most grocery stores where the lactose has been pre-digested allowing one to drink it worry-free. They cost a bit more than regular milk, but add important calcium and other nutrients to one’s diet. Lactose-free milk products are not completely free of lactase but one can be assured that 1% content of it would not be strong enough to trigger discomfort for people suffering lactose intolerance. If one still want to continue drinking milk without the pain and gaseous release, one should go for the lactose-free milk.

Verify prescriptions properly

Sometimes, lactose is being used as a “filler” agent in some medications. Make enquiry from the pharmacist if the prescription contains lactose or not.

Verify labels

Many readymade foods have dairy like milk or cheese. For cheese, the youngest and least ripe of the cheeses pose the highest problems for people suffering from lactose intolerance. The older the cheese, the less lactose it contains. Parmesan and very old cheddar contain relatively little lactose. Example of some relatively Low-Lactose cheeses are Swiss, Roquefort, Colby, American, Parmesan, Provolone, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Brick, Gouda, Cheddar, Blue, Caraway, Gruyere (hard yellow cheese) and Fontina (cow milk from Italy). Relatively cheeses with high lactose content are Ricotta, Sapsago, Mysost, Cottage, and Primost. Buttermilk and acidophilus milk are not lactose-free, but acidophilus milk may be better tolerated without symptoms because of its live cultures.