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Lactose Intolerance

How Is Lactose Intolerance Treated?

Lactose intolerance is easily treated. People with the condition can usually find a level of lactose-containing foods that will not produce symptoms. Through trial and error, you can determine what amount and type of lactose-containing products you can tolerate.

In addition, you may try consuming small amounts of milk or dairy products with meals because lactose may be better tolerated when eaten with other foods. Also, you may be better able to tolerate certain dairy products that contain less sugar, including cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese. The active cultures in yogurt produce some lactase enzymes to help digestion.

For people who get symptoms from very small amounts of lactose, over-the-counter lactase enzyme replacement (Lactaid) can be used. Lactase enzyme replacement converts lactose into its more digestible simple sugar components: glucose and galactose. The enzyme replacement is taken along with food to help digest lactose. Lactose-free milk, cheese, and other dairy products are also available at many supermarkets.

Can I Get Enough Calcium If I'm Lactose Intolerant?

People who are lactose intolerant don't necessarily have to consume milk and dairy products to get the calcium they need to maintain proper nutrition. The following nondairy foods are good sources of calcium and don't contain lactose:

Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Pinto beans
  • Lettuce greens such as spinach and kale

Seafood

  • Tuna, canned
  • Sardines, with edible bones
  • Salmon, canned with edible bones

Other foods

  • Calcium-enriched fruit juice
  • Soy milk
  • Tofu (calcium-enriched)

Eating 2-4 servings of these calcium-rich foods a day will help ensure that you are getting enough calcium in your daily diet.

Vitamin D will help your body use calcium. You can get adequate amounts of vitamin D from exposure to the sun, and by consuming fortified milk, eggs, and fish. If you are concerned you may have a vitamin D deficiency, ask your health care provider to check your 1,25 hydroxy vitamin D level. You may need to take a vitamin D supplement.

If you have trouble consuming enough calcium-rich foods in your daily diet, talk to your health care provider or a dietitian about taking a calcium supplement. The amount of calcium supplement you will need depends on your individual daily needs and how much calcium you get through food sources.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Andrew Seibert, MD on September 25, 2012
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