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Lactose Intolerance: What Is It?

Lactose intolerance: what is it?

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Key Takeaways

  1. Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products. It can have a profound effect on your health if you are intolerant to it.
  2. There’s no cure for lactose intolerance, but limiting food and drink containing lactose will help to control the symptoms
  3. Calcium-enriched plant-based milk, chickpeas, tofu, almonds, sesame seeds, and Brazil nuts are all good non-milk sources of calcium

What is lactose intolerance? 

Lactose intolerance occurs when the body is unable to produce enough lactase, the enzyme responsible for digesting lactose. This means it stays in the digestive system where it is fermented by the bacteria present, leading to bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea. Lactose intolerance is extremely common. If it occurs in adulthood, it’s usually an inherited (and therefore lifelong) condition, whereas in children it may be down to an infection and clear up within a few weeks. There’s no cure, as such, but limiting food and drink containing lactose will help to control the symptoms.

Is it the same as being allergic to dairy? 

Lactose intolerance is different from milk or dairy allergy. An allergy is a reaction triggered by the body’s immune system. An intolerance causes uncomfortable symptoms but sufferers are generally able to consume milk or dairy in very small amounts unlike those with a dairy allergy.

How can I avoid becoming calcium-deficient?

There are plenty of other ways to ensure you get enough calcium in your diet, should you need to limit your consumption of diary products. Calcium-enriched plant-based milks, chickpeas, tofu, almonds, sesame seeds and Brazil nuts are all good sources.


Swagerty, Walling, Klein (2002),Lactose intolerance.American Family Physician

Heyman, Committee on Nutrition (2006),Lactose intolerance in infants, children, and adolescents.,Pediatrics

Savaiano, Levitt (1987),Milk intolerance and microbe-containing dairy foods.,Journal of Dairy Science

Deng, Misselwitz, Dai, Fox (2015),Lactose Intolerance in Adults: Biological Mechanism and Dietary Management.,Nutrients

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