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What Are the Different Types of Lactose Intolerance Treatment?

By Natalie M. Smith
Updated May 17, 2024
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Lactose intolerance treatment generally consists of avoiding or limiting the intake of foods containing lactose. Special lactose intolerance supplements or medicines can also prevent or decrease symptoms. As of early 2011, there was no cure for lactose intolerance.

Some extremely sensitive individuals avoid lactose altogether. They might switch to lactose-free dairy products or use food substitution, such as replacing animal milk with soy milk or rice milk. Lactose also is added to atypical sources, including some medicines and processed meats, so individuals who suffer from lactose intolerance might also have to carefully monitor pharmacy drugs and other product ingredient labels.

Most people who have lactose intolerance can consume as much as 0.35 ounces (10 g) of lactose a day without experiencing adverse effects. To limit lactose intake, they might also use some lactose-free food varieties, as well as reduced-lactose products. An additional option for them is to use dairy products that have low levels of lactose. For instance, cream cheese has less than .04 ounces (1 g) of lactose per ounce (28.3 g), but 8 fluid ounces (237 ml) of yogurt and milk can have 0.35 ounces (10 g) or more of lactose each. Consuming lactose in small amounts and at spaced intervals throughout the day is another lactose intolerance treatment that works for some people.

Lactose intolerance pills and drops offer a medicinal treatment option. Low levels of the lactase enzyme, which is necessary to fully digest lactose, is what leads to the symptoms that lactose intolerant individuals experience. The pills and drops contain lactase, and when taken orally or added to food as directed, they can prevent or reduce symptoms.

Many dairy foods provide nutrients that might be more difficult to get from other food groups. Individuals who respond well to consuming small amounts of dairy and/or consuming it slowly over time might find it easier to exploit the benefits of dairy than those who are more sensitive. Doctors and dietitians might recommend that some people take supplements or other calcium- and vitamin-rich foods as part of lactose intolerance treatment to make up for any nutritional deficits of a dairy-free or dairy-reduced diet.

Seeing a doctor is beneficial prior to beginning any lactose intolerance treatment. Lactose intolerance symptoms could indicate a more serious condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome. If lactose intolerance is determined to be the culprit, the doctor can then direct the patient's symptom management. Each person's body responds uniquely to the various methods, so the best lactose intolerance treatment depends on the individual.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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