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The Key Signs and Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

Updated: May 25, 2020

If you have digestive symptoms—such as bloating, diarrhea, and gas after you consume milk,cheese & foods that contain lactose, you could be lactose intolerant.




Firstly what is Lactose?



Lactose is a type of sugar found naturally in the milk of most mammals.

Lactose intolerance is a condition with symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea, which are caused by lactose malabsorption. An enzyme known as lactase is responsible for breaking down lactose for digestion. This is particularly important in infants, who need lactase to digest breast milk. However, as children grow older, they generally produce less and less lactase.

By the time we get to adulthood, up to 70% of us can no longer produce enough lactase to properly digest the lactose in milk, leading to symptoms or when after 30 minutes to two hours after consuming a milk-containing or milk-based product signs occur as per below:


The 5 Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance.



1. Stomach Pain and Bloating

Stomach pain and bloating are common symptoms of lactose intolerance in both children and adults which may also include rumbling or gurgling sounds in the stomach.




2. Diarrhea


Lactose intolerance can cause diarrhea, or an increase in the frequency, liquidity or volume of stool. It occurs when undigested lactose ferments in the colon, producing short-chain fatty acids that increase the amount of water in the gut.

3. Increased Gas


The fermentation of lactose in the colon can lead to increased flatulence, and the extent to which this occurs can vary significantly from person to person. The gas produced from the fermentation of lactose is odorless.


4. Constipation


Constipation is a rarer symptom of lactose intolerance. It is thought to be caused by an increase in methane production in the colon, which slows transit time in the gut.

Management of Lactose Intolerance


Most people with lactose intolerance can handle small amounts of lactose, such as a glass of milk, which contains 8–10 grams of lactose.

Risk factors

Factors that can make adults and children more prone to lactose intolerance include:


  • Increasing age. Lactose intolerance usually appears in adulthood. The condition is uncommon in babies and young children.

  • Ethnicity. Lactose intolerance is most common in people of African, Asian, Hispanic and American Indian descent.

  • Premature birth. Infants born prematurely might have reduced levels of lactase because the small intestine doesn't develop lactase-producing cells until late in the third trimester.

  • Diseases affecting the small intestine. Small intestine problems that can cause lactose intolerance include bacterial overgrowth, celiac disease and Crohn's disease.

  • Certain cancer treatments. If you've had radiation therapy for cancer in your stomach or you have intestinal complications from chemotherapy, your risk of developing lactose intolerance increases.

Some Helpful Tips if You Think Your Lactose Intolerant




Don’t give up milk products entirely. They are an important source of nutrients, especially calcium. Look for alternative options like Liddells Lactose Free Range. All Liddells products are all made from real dairy, lactose free and where needed they add the lactase enzyme to break down the lactose into two simple sugars: glucose and galactose. These sugars can be easily absorbed in the small intestine, keeping your tummy feeling happy again. Liddells products are great for anyone wanting to live a lactose free life. They use cow’s milk, you still get the delicious flavour and nutritional benefits you normally would without any side effects.


They have a range of Fresh & UHT Milk, Grated, Sliced & Cream Cheese as well as yoghurt. Making cooking a breeze whilst retaining flavour and nutrients that you get from dairy.



However, if you think you can that reducing your lactose consumption is all you need to do choose hard and matured cheeses such as cheddar, Edam, Swiss, mozzarella, brie and fetta contain no lactose and could be tolerated by people with lactose intolerance. Fresh cheeses such as cottage cheese and ricotta also have very low levels of lactose and are usually well tolerated in small amounts.

Similarly, butter and cream contain very low levels of lactose and could be tolerated.





Drink milk in moderate quantities. Most people with this condition can tolerate 240 ml of milk per day, but you need to work out your own tolerance level. Again, you can buy milk that has had the lactose broken down, look for Liddells fresh varieties in your local supermarket

Eat foods that contain lactose in combination with other foods or spread them out over the day, rather than eating a large amount at once.

Soy foods such as soy milk and yoghurt are lactose free, a good source of calcium and a good substitute for milk or milk products.

Watch Out For Hidden Lactose


Very important that your checking food labels for lactose If you are trying to avoid lactose or reduce your consumption. Ingredients to look for in lists on food labels include:

  • Milk solids

  • Non-fat milk solids

  • Whey

  • Milk sugar.

Also be mindful that some foods that may contain hidden lactose these can include:

  • Biscuits and cakes (if milk or milk solids are added)

  • Selected flavour savory snacks (Chicken chips)

  • Processed breakfast cereals

  • Cheese sauce

  • Cream soups

  • Custard

  • Milk chocolate

  • Pancakes and Pikelets

  • Scrambled eggs

  • Quiche

  • muesli bars

  • some breads and margarine (containing milk).

Where to get help if you suspect your lactose intolerant

Step One - Your doctor

Dietitians Association of Australia Tel. 1800 812 942


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