Health and Medicine

Diseases, Disorders, and Other Health Problems

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose, the principal sugar in cow’s milk and found only in dairy products, requires the enzyme lactase for human digestion. Lactose intolerance occurs when the lining of the walls of a person’s small intestine does not produce normal amounts of this enzyme. Lactose intolerance causes abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and excessive gas when more than a certain amount of milk is ingested. Most people are less able to tolerate lactose as they grow older.

A person having lactose intolerance need not eliminate dairy products totally from the diet. Decreasing the consumption of milk products, drinking milk only during meals, and getting calcium from cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products having lower lactose values are options. Another alternative is to buy a commercial lactose preparation that can be mixed into milk. These preparations convert lactose into simple sugars that can be easily digested.


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