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Lactose Intolerance - Treatment Overview

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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.

Eat or drink other foods instead of milk and milk products. You can substitute soy milk and soy cheese for milk and milk products. You can also use nondairy creamers in your coffee. But keep in mind that nondairy creamers do not contain the same vitamins and minerals as milk, and they may contain more fat than milk contains.

Use lactase products. Lactase products are dietary supplements that help you digest lactose. There are many different brands of lactase products. Some are pills that you chew (such as Lactaid) before you eat or drink milk products. Others are liquids that you can add to milk 24 hours before you drink it. Some foods have extra lactase added to them. Because products and brands are different, you may want to try a few to see which ones work best for you.

Eat yogurt with live and active cultures. Some people who are lactose-intolerant can eat yogurt without having problems, especially yogurt that contains live and active cultures. This type of yogurt can help people digest lactose. All yogurts are made with live cultures, but many yogurts go through a process called "heat treatment" that kills the bacteria. Check the label for the words "contains live and active cultures." It's best to try a small amount of different brands of yogurt to see which ones work best for you.

If you have severe lactose intolerance, you may need to avoid lactose completely. Some medicines and many prepared foods contain lactose. Examples of prepared foods with lactose include breads and baked goods; breakfast cereals and instant breakfast drinks; instant potatoes and instant soups; pancake, cookie, and biscuit mixes; margarine and salad dressings; candies, milk chocolate, and other snacks. Be sure to read labels for lactose and for lactose's "hidden" names, such as:

  • Dry milk solids.
  • Whey.
  • Curds.
  • Milk by-products.
  • Nonfat dry milk powder.
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