Many people can manage the symptoms of lactose intolerance by changing their diet. Some people may only need to limit the amount of lactose they eat or drink.
Others may need to avoid lactose altogether. Using lactase products can help some people manage their symptoms.
For people with secondary lactase deficiency, treating the underlying cause improves lactose tolerance.
In infants with developmental lactase deficiency, the ability to digest lactose improves as the infants mature. People with primary and congenital lactase deficiency cannot change their body’s ability to produce lactase.
People may find it helpful to talk with a health care provider or a registered dietitian about a dietary plan. A dietary plan can help people manage the symptoms of lactose intolerance and make sure they get enough nutrients.
Parents, caretakers, childcare providers, and others who serve food to children with lactose intolerance should follow the dietary plan recommended by the child’s health care provider or registered dietitian.
Milk and milk products. Gradually introducing small amounts of milk or milk products may help some people adapt to them with fewer symptoms.
Often, people can better tolerate milk or milk products by having them with meals, such as having milk with cereal or having cheese with crackers.
People with lactose intolerance are generally more likely to tolerate hard cheeses, such as cheddar or Swiss, than a glass of milk.
A 1.5‑ounce serving of low-fat hard cheese has less than 1 gram of lactose, while a 1-cup serving of low-fat milk has about 11 to 13 grams of lactose.
However, people with lactose intolerance are also more likely to tolerate yogurt than milk, even though yogurt and milk have similar amounts of lactose.
Lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk and milk products. Lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk and milk products are available at most supermarkets and are identical nutritionally to regular milk and milk products.
Manufacturers treat lactose-free milk with the lactase enzyme. This enzyme breaks down the lactose in the milk.
Lactose-free milk remains fresh for about the same length of time or, if it is ultra-pasteurized, longer than regular milk. Lactose-free milk may have a slightly sweeter taste than regular milk.
Lactase products. People can use lactase tablets and drops when they eat or drink milk products. The lactase enzyme digests the lactose in the food and therefore reduces the chances of developing digestive symptoms.
People should check with a health care provider before using these products because some groups, such as young children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, may not be able to use them.