Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest significant amounts of lactose, the predominant sugar found in milk. This inability results from a shortage of the enzyme lactase, which is normally produced by the cells that line the small intestine. Lactase breaks down milk sugar into simpler forms that can then be absorbed into the bloodstream. When there is not enough lactase to digest the amount of lactose consumed, the results, although not usually dangerous, may be very distressing. While not all people deficient in lactase have symptoms, those who do are said to be lactose intolerant. Common symptoms include nausea, cramps, bloating, wind, and diarrhoea, which begin about 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking foods containing lactose. The most common test for measuring absorption of lactose in the digestive system is the hydrogen breath test.

Managing a Lactose Free Diet

It is important that you follow a lactose free diet as this is the only effective treatment to reduce the discomfort associated with lactose intolerance.

You must first be comfortable with being able to identify the obvious and non-obvious sources of lactose in your diet.

Milk and other dairy products are an important food group as they provide energy, protein, fat, calcium, magnesium and other important nutrients such as riboflavin. Therefore, you must make sure you are making suitable substitutions and considering the nutrients you may be at risk of being deficient of.

Your diet does not need to be restrictive – for example, cheddar cheese is virtually lactose free and most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate a small amount of lactose in their diet.

You can incorporate products such as lactase enzyme and also certain probiotics to help your body with the digestion of lactose.


At Digestive Health City & Docklands, we work hard to provide our patients with top-class care. You will enjoy friendly, fast and modern treatment by a highly experienced gastroenterologist. We carefully review patient satisfaction and feedback, and at Digestive Health we are continuously making improvements to our services, ensuring the highest level of care possible.

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