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Lactase Deficiency

more about Lactase Deficiency


Lactose intolerance



  • Lactose is the predominant sugar found in dairy products (e.g., milk, cheese, and ice cream).  Lactase, an enzyme normally found in the intestine, breaks down lactose and its by-products for use in the body.  When there is a deficiency of lactase, the lactose remains in the intestine, and is excreted in bowel movements.  This results in Diarrhea, flatulence (gas), abdominal bloating, and abdominal discomfort.
  • Lactase deficiency occurs in a high percentage of adults of Asian, Ashkenazi Jewish, African-American, Native American, and Mediterranean descent.
  • It can also occur in premature infants and older children.

  • Diagnosis is difficult, but it might be tentatively made if eliminating all dairy products for seven days resolves all symptoms.
  • Symptoms of Diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain, and bloating can be associated with the consumption of dairy products
  • Special testing such as lactose tolerance test, hydrogen breath test, and the stool acidity test

  • Elimination of most or lactose-containing foods, i.e., dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream).  Studies have shown that some patients with severe lactase deficiency can tolerate small amounts of milk product.  Calcium supplements will need to be taken.
  • Lactase supplementation to the diet is feasible and effective for a majority of patients with this condition.  Lactase is marketed in the form of pills (Lactaid) sold over-the-counter.  The pills are taken before consuming dairy.  In addition, milk with Lactaid already added is available in most grocery stores.  This is the option most people elect because total abstinence from dairy products is difficult and frustrating to many.




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