Lactose Intolerance: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment



Published on: 29-Jun-2022


10 min read


Updated on : 08-Dec-2023




Anushka Tripathi


Lactose Intolerance: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Lactose Intolerance: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

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India is a country where people consume dairy products in large quantities.  However, have you ever wondered that these, too, may be harmful? Yes, there are just so many people with lactose intolerance, which is an inability to metabolise milk and its products. Several individuals have proven insensitive to some of the dairy products in surveys. This eventually leads to lactose intolerance.

This problem has more to do with your internal system than mental acceptance of certain food products. Individuals having lactose intolerance experience bloating, gas, and diarrhoea when they eat foods that contain lactose like other people.

This post will look at what leads to lactose intolerance, its symptoms, diagnosis and therapeutic interventions. Additionally, it will discuss managing diet regimens while suffering from lactose intolerance.

Table Of Contents

  1. What Is Lactose Intolerance?

  2. Lactose Intolerance And Milk Allergy - Are They Same?

  3. Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance

  4. Causes And Types Of Lactose Intolerance

  5. What Happens If You Ignore Lactose Intolerance?

  6. Diagnosis And Treatment Of Lactose Intolerance

  7. The Final Say

  8. FAQs

  9. References

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a common condition when one’s body cannot process the sugars found in milk and other milk products. Dairy products are among the items that contain lactose, which causes malabsorption as well. This occurs when the body cannot fully process lactose molecules, resulting in undigested foods or lack of digestion.

As per the studies, 65% of adults worldwide suffer from this allergy or lactose intolerance. When passed from the gastrointestinal tract, this condition of unabsorbed lactose causes bloating, stomachache, itchiness in the skin and other symptoms of allergies.

Lactose Intolerance And Milk Allergy - Are They Same?

Milk protein allergy or dairy intolerance should not be confused with lactose intolerance. Allergy from milk protein generally occurs when the immune system reacts to a specific milk protein. This eventually leads to an allergic reaction due to dairy products. 

Lactose intolerance does not involve the immune system like that in milk allergies. The lactase enzyme is lacking in people suffering from lactose intolerance. Most people also develop an allergy towards it because they are not able to take down lactic food substances.

Also Read: 10 Types Of Herbal Tea For Better Digestion 

Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance

Having lactose intolerance needs a lot of care. And if you get any of the symptoms of having this allergy, you must stop taking dairy products. The symptoms of lactose intolerance are seen after 30 minutes of consuming a dairy product. Here are the symptoms listed:

  • Abdominal pain   

  • Bloating   

  • Loose stools   

  • Flatulence   

  • Fullness    

  • Nausea   

  • Vomiting   

  • Headache   

  • Constipation   

  • Muscle pain   

  • Joint pain   

Causes And Types Of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance occurs when your small intestine does not produce enough enzyme (lactase) to digest milk sugar (lactose).   

Typically, lactase enzymes turn milk sugar into two simple sugars, i.e. galactose and glucose which are then absorbed by the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. Still, lactose in your food moves into the colon rather than being processed and absorbed If you are lactase deficient. In the colon, the microflora interact with undigested lactose, further causing the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance.   

There are three types of lactose intolerance. Different factors create the lactase insufficiency underlying each type.   

1. Primary Lactose Intolerance

The most prevalent kind of lactose intolerance primarily, is caused by individuals who do not produce enough lactase from birth. Since milk is an infant's only source of nutrition, lactase is necessary.

As children replace milk with other foods, the amount of lactase they produce typically drops but generally remains high enough to digest the quantity of dairy in a typical adult diet. In primary lactose intolerance, lactase production falls off sharply by adulthood, making milk products tough to digest.   

2. Secondary Lactose Intolerance 

This form of lactose intolerance occurs when your small intestine decreases lactase product after an illness, injury or surgery involving your small intestine. Bacterial overgrowth, Crohn's disease, intestinal infection, and celiac disease are among the conditions linked to secondary lactose intolerance. 

Treatment of the underpinning disorder might restore lactase levels and improve signs and symptoms, though it can take time.   

3. Congenital Or Developmental Lactose Intolerance

It is possible, but uncommon, for newborns to have lactose intolerance caused by a deficiency of lactase. This condition is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, which means that a child must receive the same gene variant from both parents to be affected. Premature infants may also experience lactose intolerance due to low levels of lactase.

What Happens If You Ignore Lactose Intolerance?

If an individual with lactose intolerance continues eating too much lactose in a meal, this may cause severe illness in the person. The food may cause bloating, stomachache, and other health issues when passed through the small intestine.

Also, people dependent on dairy products for calcium consumption may risk bone health. To avoid all these circumstances, consult your doctor if you have lactose intolerance and read below to know how to diagnose and remedy lactose intolerance.  

Also Read: Rotation Diet Plan to Manage Food Intolerances 

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Lactose Intolerance

Here are the diagnoses and treatments for lactose intolerance that you can look after

1. Diagnosis

Lactose intolerance is diagnosed by a simple test called a hydrogen breath test. After an overnight fast before the test, an individual breathes into a bag and then drinks a specified quantity of the milk sugar as a syrup. In adults, this corresponds to the quantity of milk sugar in a quart of milk. 

Subsequent breath samples are taken for over three hours. The breath they exhale into the bag is analysed to determine its hydrogen content. During the test, individuals who are lactose intolerant will have an increase in the quantity of hydrogen they exhale. However, lactose intolerance is diagnosed If the hydrogen values increase above a certain value. Patients who are lactose intolerant may also develop their typical symptoms during the test.   

In those who can not suffer testing, disposal of lactose from the diet and possible supplementation with lactase can be done for 2 weeks to see if this improves the symptoms and see if symptoms return if lactose is added back to the diet.

2. Treatment

The most crucial question is how to cure lactose intolerance. Treating lactose intolerance in a body requires a lactose-free diet, a combination of nutritional alterations that help digest lactose. Some people may be less lactose intolerant and thus tolerate comparatively larger quantities of lactose.

Alternatives to milk for lactose intolerant individualities include products like soy milk. If an individual restricts their milk/ dairy intake, a lactose-free diet ensures acceptable calcium and vitamin D supplementation is essential. 

This is especially important for paediatric patients and women. The table below notes the daily calcium intake: 

      Daily Calcium Intake

1- 3 years of age

500 mg 

4- 8 years of age

800 mg 

9- 24 years of age

1300 mg  

Age 25 and above

800-1000 mg

Pregnant and nursing women

1200 mg 

Furthermore, you need to take care of your body to live a healthy life. You can begin with an active fitness plan to ensure your fitness. 

The Final Say

When the body cannot break down the milk protein into small pieces, it can cause mild to severe symptoms of lactose intolerance. There is no proper treatment for lactose intolerance other than avoiding milk products. This is how the allergy due to lactose intolerance can be treated and avoided. 

You can also switch to dairy alternatives, such as plant-based products that will compensate for lactose and calcium in your body. Make adequate dietary changes to avoid discomforting symptoms. Contact us at ToneOp for expert solutions on lactose-intolerant diets! 


1. What happens if I ignore lactose intolerance?   

You may suffer worsened symptoms or digestive disorders if you ignore lactose intolerance. This may cause chronic diarrhoea, which leads to complications like malnutrition, unexplained weight loss, and anaemia.

2. How to stop lactose intolerance pain immediately?

Taking lactase enzymes immediately may help you in the digestion of dairy products. You can also take tablets just before your meal to avoid the consequences.

3. How long does lactose intolerance pain last?   

The symptoms of lactose intolerance are seen within 30 minutes to 2 hours after you eat any dairy product. So, the pain generally begins within 48 hours when the food is passed through the digestive system.


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