Treatment for Lactose Intolerance

How can I manage my lactose intolerance symptoms?

In most cases, you can manage the symptoms of lactose intolerance by changing your diet to limit or avoid foods and drinks that contain lactose, such as milk and milk products.

Some people may only need to limit the amount of lactose they eat or drink, while others may need to avoid lactose altogether. Using lactase products can help some people manage their symptoms.

Lactase products

Lactase products are tablets or drops that contain lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. You can take lactase tablets before you eat or drink milk products. You can also add lactase drops to milk before you drink it. The lactase breaks down the lactose in foods and drinks, lowering your chances of having lactose intolerance symptoms.

Check with your doctor before using lactase products. Some people, such as young children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, may not be able to use them.

Woman holding a glass of milk and a lactase tablet.
Lactase products are tablets or drops that contain lactase.

How do doctors treat lactose intolerance?

Treatments depend on the cause of lactose intolerance. If your lactose intolerance is caused by lactase nonpersistence or congenital lactase deficiency, no treatments can increase the amount of lactase your small intestine makes. Your doctor can help you change your diet to manage your symptoms.

If your lactose intolerance is caused by an injury to your small intestine, your doctor may be able to treat the cause of the injury. You may be able to tolerate lactose after treatment.

While some premature babies are lactose intolerant, the condition usually improves without treatment as the baby gets older.

February 2018
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Rachel Fisher, M.S., M.P.H., R.D., NIDDK Office of Nutrition Research