Milk including breast milk contains lactose – a sugar, in addition to proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Lactose is present in milk products as well. Lactose needs lactase enzyme (produced in the small intestine) to get converted into glucose and galactose – the sugars that are easily absorbed in the intestine. If lactase is not produced or insufficiently produced in infants, children or adults, they cannot digest lactose, and thus, the lactose passes through the gut unabsorbed. However, bacteria in the gut consume the undigested lactose and cause the built up of gases that prompt symptoms like wind, bloating, & diarrhea: lactose intolerance.
Lactose is important for your baby as it provides nearly about 40% of your baby’s energy requirements and helps her absorb iron & calcium for healthy development. If your baby is lactose intolerant than what will you do? Read further to know more ….
The Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance include:
- Stomach pain
Causes of Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is of two types: primary and secondary. Primary lactose intolerance is common in babies born with no lactose enzyme at all. This is extremely rare as it is genetically linked. The babies who are born with this condition require special diet from the moment they are born. Secondary lactose Intolerance develops when a child’s digestive system is affected by illness, infections, gastroenteritis & celiac disease resulting in decreased production of lactase enzyme. Gastroenteritis can cause temporary irritation of the lining of the stomach and small intestine, but this will usually clear up. Many of these conditions temporarily diminish lactose digesting ability of the body. However, some children may develop permanent lactose intolerance as they grow up; in such case they have to avoid lactose containing foods all through their lives.
For some children a low lactose diet is usually recommended for a few weeks (such a diet excludes all milk and milk products) and then a normal diet is usually suggested by the doctors or the dietitian. For children aged 7 to 10 years, lactose intolerance is usually treated by avoiding milk or products containing milk or milk sugar.
Lactose intolerance and diet
You can avoid eating food or food products containing milk, milk solids, milk proteins, skim milk powder, non-fat milk solids and yoghurt. Also avoid Cream, ice-cream, milk desserts, processed cheese, cheese spread, cottage cheese and ricotta cheese. Avoid vegetables added with cheese sauces or milk. Some food items like Cakes, soups, milk chocolates, creamed soups, cakes may also contain lactose. Look for the labels on the products to check whether they contain lactose containing ingredients. Confirm with your doctor that the medicines you use do not contain lactose.
The following foods are Fine:
- Fruits & Vegetables
- Fish, Meat, Chicken, pulses, Legumes & Nuts
- Cereals & Bread
- Rice & Pasta
- Soy Yoghurt
- Cheese containing low lactose: cheddar, feta, mozzarella, Tilstat, Colby, and Swiss
Be Careful while preferring the following foods:
- Creamy Italian or French cooking
- Ice-cream, Cottage Cheese, Milk Desserts, Cream Cheese, Cheese Spread, Milk, Yoghurt, Processed Cheese and Ricotta.
- Frankfurts, Meat Pastes, Fish Pastes
- Potato chips with cheese sauces & added milk
Check the food labels & Ingredients of the following foods:
- Artificial sweeteners
- creamed soups
- biscuits, cakes and cake mixes
- milk chocolate
- flavoured cheese and chips
- flavoured snacks
Food allergy versus lactose intolerance
Food allergy is different from lactose intolerance, but sometimes the symptoms caused by food allergy resemble lactose intolerance. Majority of the infant formulas have cow, goats or soy milk based ingredients. Though allergy to breast milk is very rare, yet allergy may develop to mother’s milk as well if the mother eats allergy inducing proteins which are transferred to the infant through breast milk. The best bet would be to check the diet inducing allergy, which involves removal of dairy foods like milk, cheese, yoghurt & cream from mother’s diet, and then observing baby’s symptoms. If the baby’s symptoms improve when mother stops such products, but returns when mother reintroduces the foods, it will suggest an allergy.
What you should know Before Changing to a low Lactose Diet?
Before changing to a low lactose diet, consult with your doctor. For infants, infants’ formulas, low in lactose are available commercially. However, Soy formula is not recommended for infants younger than six months old.
For children, following are the milk and milk products which are low in lactose and are nutritious: As milk is the very important source of calcium, protein and vitamins, regular milk can be replaced with lactose-free milk, which is well tolerated. Cheddar cheese, low lactose cream and sour cream are also available. For young children 2 to 3 servings of low lactose dairy products or lactose free milk is recommended. Similarly, for older children, 3 serving and for teenagers 4 servings are recommended. Calcium fortified soy milk; Soy fresh, soy-based yoghurts are also good sources of calcium for children who are lactose intolerant.
Rice, bread, pasta, are rich in vitamins, energy and proteins and also provide fiber. Some breakfast cereal packs may also contain milk or lactose; so be careful while choosing your pack. You can include meat, fish, chicken, legumes and pulses as they are rich in proteins and minerals. Similarly vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins, fiber and minerals. Margarine, oil and butter are low in lactose and provide vitamins and energy and can be tolerated in small amounts.
Key points to remember
Before buying any commercial milk and milk products carefully read the labels to ensure that they do not contain milk or milk sugars – if you are lactose intolerant. Similarly, talk to your pharmacist or your doctor to know the medication you are taking contain lactose. If small amounts of lactose are well tolerated and only large amounts are causing symptoms then discuss with your doctor or dietician for the reintroduction of foods containing lactose
There may be several reasons for lactose intolerance (reduced lactose digesting ability of your body), but the best solution is to take precautions. Temporary lactose intolerance can be treated over a period of time. However, some people may develop lactose intolerance as they grow up. Whatever may be the reason for lactose intolerance, check out with your doctor.
Discuss with your doctor or dietitian for the reintroduction of foods containing lactose. This needs to be done slowly, over the course of a week or longer.