If you are unable to completely digest the lactose, also known as milk sugar, when you consume milk or other dairy products, you may be lactose intolerant. This condition is hereditary and can affect both children and adults. Lactose intolerance also called lactose malabsorption, is usually harmless, however its symptoms can make you feel really uneasy.

What happens is that too little of lactase, an enzyme produced in your small intestine is usually the source of lactose intolerance. You can have low level of lactase and still be able to digest dairy products. However, if your levels are way too low, you develop lactose intolerance, leading to symptoms after you eat or drink dairy.


Common symptoms after eating or drinking dairy products include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea, and sometimes, vomiting

  • Stomach cramps

  • Bloating

  • Gas

You begin to notice these symptoms and signs from 30 minutes to two hours after the consumption of milk or other dairy products.

  • Lactose intolerance arises when your small intestine doesn’t generate enough of an enzyme, lactase to digest milk sugar, lactose.

  • Naturally, lactase changes milk sugar into two simple sugars- glucose and galactose-which are assimilated into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining.

  • If you’re lactose undersupplied, lactose in your food moves into the colon instead of being processed and absorbed. In the colon, normal bacteria interact with undigested lactose, instigating the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance.

When do you need to see a doctor?

Make an appointment with your doctor if you often have symptoms of lactose intolerance after eating dairy foods, especially if you’re concerned about getting enough calcium.

How do I know I’m lactose intolerant?
  • Breath test. You will be asked to drink liquid containing lot of lactose. This test will show if you have high levels of hydrogen when you let your breath out. If you do, you might be lactose intolerant. that’s because hydrogen is given off when lactose is broken down in the colon. The hydrogen gets taken by the blood up to your lungs, and then you let it out.

  • Blood test. This can show how your body reacts after you drink or eat something with lot of lactose.

  • Stool acidity test. This test is usually used for infants and young children. It examines how much acid is in the stool. If you are not absorbing lactose, your stool will have lactic acid, glucose and other fatty acids.


Treating lactose intolerance might restore your body’s ability to digest lactose, although the treatment process can take months, however with determination and consistency, it is achievable. For other causes, you might avoid the uneasiness of lactose intolerance by following a lactose-free diet.

To lower the amount of lactose in your diet:

  • Reduce milk and other dairy products.

  • Eat and drink lactose -reduced ice cream and milk.

  • Add a liquid or powder lactase enzyme to milk to breakdown the lactose.

  • Include small servings of dairy products in your regular meals.

Other substitutes for calcium

In place of milk or other dairy products which contain calcium, you can also take calcium-fortified products such as:

  • Cereals and juices

  • Milk substitutes such as soy milk and rice milk

  • Oranges

  • Canned sardines

  • Leafy green vegetables

In conclusion, keep tabs on your daily portions of dairy foods, including milk, ice cream, yoghurt and cheese, and when you have them and what you eat with them. Also let your doctor know which dairy foods, in what amounts, give you symptoms. This information can help your doctor make the correct diagnosis.

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