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Lactose Intolerance - Treatment Overview

If you think you have lactose intolerance, it is a good idea to talk it over with your doctor. Your doctor can make sure that your symptoms are caused by lactose intolerance and not by another problem such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, overuse of laxatives, or problems digesting foods that contain fructose or sorbitol. Your doctor can also make sure that your lactose intolerance is not related to another health problem.

After being diagnosed with lactose intolerance, you may feel relieved to find out what has been causing your symptoms. You may also feel frustrated by having to deal with this condition for the rest of your life. You may find it reassuring to know that there are many people who have lactose intolerance and most can avoid discomfort and still eat or drink some milk products throughout the day.

There are different ways to live with lactose intolerance. What works for one person may not work for another. Because there is no cure for lactose intolerance, controlling your symptoms is mostly up to you. The following tips can help you prevent symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Limit the amount of milk and milk products in your diet. Most people can have about 10 g of lactose each day. This can be a glass of whole, low-fat, or fat-free milk, for example. All milk contains the same amount of lactose. Other milk products contain different amounts of lactose:

Approximate lactose and calcium in some foods1
Food Serving size Lactose (g) Calcium (mg)

Milk, fat-free

8 fl oz (240 mL)

12.5

300

Cheddar cheese

1 oz (30 g)

0.07

204

Cottage cheese, 2% milk fat

4 oz (113 g)

3

100

Cream cheese

1 oz (30 g)

0.9

28

Foods with less lactose, such as Swiss or cheddar cheese, may not cause problems. If you are not sure whether a milk product causes symptoms, try a small amount and wait to see how you feel before you eat or drink more.

Eat or drink milk and milk products along with other foods. For some people, combining a solid food (like cereal) with a dairy product (like milk) may reduce or eliminate symptoms.

Spread milk or milk products throughout the day. Many people who are lactose-intolerant find it helpful to eat small amounts of lactose-containing products throughout the day instead of larger amounts all at one time.

Eat or drink milk and milk products that have reduced lactose. In most grocery stores, you can buy milk with reduced lactose. Some people like buying this kind of milk and find that it helps control their symptoms. Others find that it tastes too sweet or is too expensive. People who have diabetes may find that lactose-reduced milk raises their blood sugar levels higher than normal.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 19, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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