Lactose Intolerance, Adult

Lactose intolerance is when the body is not able to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. Lactose intolerance is caused by your body not producing enough of the enzyme lactase. When there is not enough lactase to digest the amount of lactose consumed, discomfort may be felt. Lactose intolerance is not a milk allergy.

For most people, lactase deficiency is a condition that develops naturally over time. After about the age of 2, the body begins to produce less lactase. But many people may not experience symptoms until they are much older.

CAUSES

Things that can cause you to be lactose intolerant include:

  • Aging.

  • Being born without the ability to make lactase.

  • Certain digestive diseases.

  • Injuries to the small intestine.

SYMPTOMS

  • Feeling sick to your stomach (nauseous).

  • Diarrhea.

  • Cramps.

  • Bloating.

  • Gas.

Symptoms usually show up a half hour or 2 hours after eating or drinking products containing lactose.

TREATMENT

No treatment can improve the body's ability to produce lactase. However, symptoms can be controlled through diet. A medicine may be given to you to take when you consume lactose-containing foods or drinks. The medicine contains the lactase enzyme, which help the body digest lactose better.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Eat or drink dairy products as told by your caregiver or dietician.

  • Take all medicine as directed by your caregiver.

  • Find lactose-free or lactose-reduced products at your local grocery store.

  • Talk to your caregiver or dietician to decide if you need any dietary supplements.

The following is the amount of calcium needed from the diet:

  • 19 to 50 years: 1000 mg

  • Over 50 years: 1200 mg

Calcium and Lactose in Common Foods

Non-Dairy Products / Calcium Content (mg)

  • Calcium-fortified orange juice, 1 cup / 308 to 344 mg

  • Sardines, with edible bones, 3 oz / 270 mg

  • Salmon, canned, with edible bones, 3 oz / 205 mg

  • Soymilk, fortified, 1 cup / 200 mg

  • Broccoli (raw), 1 cup / 90 mg

  • Orange, 1 medium / 50 mg

  • Pinto beans, ½ cup / 40 mg

  • Tuna, canned, 3 oz / 10 mg

  • Lettuce greens, ½ cup / 10 mg

Dairy Products / Calcium Content (mg) / Lactose Content (g)

  • Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 1 cup / 415 mg / 5 g

  • Milk, reduced fat, 1 cup / 295 mg / 11 g

  • Swiss cheese, 1 oz / 270 mg / 1 g

  • Ice cream, ½ cup / 85 mg / 6 g

  • Cottage cheese, ½ cup / 75 mg / 2 to 3 g

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

You have no relief from your symptoms.