Lactose Intolerance in Children: 3 Things to Know
Lactose intolerance occurs when the body makes too little of the enzyme lactase, which the body needs to break lactose down into glucose and galactose. When there’s not enough lactase in the body, lactose doesn’t get broken down in the small intestine, and instead passes into the large intestine where bacteria ferments it into gases and acids. For many kids, this means that a glass of milk or a scoop of ice cream can result in cramps, gas and diarrhea. You should discuss these symptoms with your pediatrician to make sure that it is not related to other health conditions.
If you know or suspect that your child may have lactose intolerance, here are 3 things to know.
- Lactose Intolerance is Manageable: If your child has been diagnosed, know that this can easily be managed with dietary changes. For some people, lactose intolerance can be permanent, but for some children, lactose intolerance is a temporary condition following a gastrointestinal infection or after taking antibiotics.
- Lactose Intolerance is Easily Diagnosed: In most cases, doctors diagnose lactose intolerance through a simple hydrogen breath test. If you suspect your child has lactose intolerance, consult your doctor first. Your doctor can rule out other conditions, such as acid reflux and celiac disease, and discuss dietary changes if your child has lactose intolerance.
- What to eat? If your child has been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, first discuss dietary changes with your child’s doctor. They may suggest eliminating dairy, but this is not always the case. Not everyone with intolerance is sensitive to all dairy: for example, some children may tolerate cheese but not milk. You may want to start keeping a food diary that tracks what foods irritate your child, and what foods are well tolerated. Also, make sure to add in calcium rich foods such as calcium fortified non-dairy beverages, salmon and almonds to replace the calcium in dairy. You may even try using lactaid pills before your child eats dairy.
If your child has recently been diagnosed and you would like guidance in meeting your child’s nutritional needs while making changes to their diet, consider working with our health coach Dr. Karen. Our health coach can help you devise a meal plan that works with your lifestyle and budget, meets your child’s needs, and makes meeting your healthy goals easier.
Dr. Karen Leibowitz
Health and Medical Coach