Lactose Intolerance

  • Overview

    Lactose is the sugar in milk products. Individuals who are lactose intolerant lack the enzyme or chemical (lactase) to break down this sugar for absorption. As a result, lactose gets into the large bowel (colon) and may cause gas, bloating, diarrhea and abdominal cramping. Sometimes lactose intolerance occurs after digestive infections.

    Lactose intolerance affects more than 7 million Canadians. This is likely an underestimate as many individuals do not associate their symptoms with lactose-containing foods or do not experience symptoms.

     

  • Guides

    Understanding Lactose Intolerance

    Lactose is the sugar in milk products. Individuals who are lactose intolerant lack the enzyme or chemical (lactase) to break down this sugar for absorption. As a result, lactose gets into the large bowel (colon) and may cause gas, bloating, diarrhea and abdominal cramping. 

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  • Frequently Asked Questions

    I have stopped eating milk, cheese and ice cream but still have symptoms sometimes. Why is that?

    The reason could be that you are still unknowingly ingesting milk products.  Milk and milk products are often added to processed food. Products that list whey, dry milk solids, dry milk powder, whey, curds contain lactose. Be sure to check the ingredients on food labels to see if there is lactose in food products that are not obviously milk-based.

    If my child is lactose intolerant, what can he eat to be sure he gets calcium in his diet?

    Non-milk products that contain calcium include rhubarb, spinach, broccoli, salmon, sardines, soy milk and oranges among others. It is a good idea to speak with a nutritionist or dietitian if you or someone in your home is lactose intolerant.

    Is it possible that I have celiac disease as well as lactose intolerance?

    It is possible.  25% of patients who have been clinically identified as lactose intolerant, have celiac disease. In Canada, that means about 73,500 people have undiagnosed celiac disease which is the causal agent for their lactose intolerance.   If you think you have celiac disease, you should speak with your doctor.

    Is lactose intolerance the same thing as being allergic to milk?

    No. When people are allergic to milk, their body’s immune system reacts to one or more milk proteins.  Milk allergies can be life threatening even if a small amount of milk or milk product is consumed. Milk allergies are generally diagnosed in the first year of life, while lactose intolerance occurs more often in adulthood.

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