We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
What is lactose intolerance?
When you're lactose intolerant, it means your body can't produce enough lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose, the primary sugar in cow's milk and other dairy products. As a result, the undigested lactose stays in the intestine and causes gastrointestinal problems. These problems tend to be uncomfortable but not dangerous.
Lactose intolerance is common in older children and adults, especially among certain ethnic and racial groups. Between 30 and 50 million people in the United States are lactose intolerant. Asian Americans, African American, Hispanics, Jewish, and Native Americans are much more likely to be lactose intolerant than people of northern European descent.
Is my baby lactose intolerant?
Lactose intolerance is rare in babies. That's because almost all infants are born with lactase in their intestines, which allows them to digest their mother's breast milk.
Occasionally, babies have lactose intolerance for one of these reasons:
- A genetic disorder. Very rarely, a baby is born with lactose intolerance caused by a lack of lactase. Both parents would have to pass the gene for this type of lactose intolerance to the baby. From birth, the baby would have severe diarrhea and be unable to tolerate the lactose in his mother's breast milk or in formula made from cow's milk. He would require a special, lactose-free infant formula.
- Premature birth. Babies who are born prematurely sometimes can't produce adequate amounts of lactase. This condition usually clears up shortly after birth, and most preemies can tolerate breast-milk and formula that contains lactose.
- A viral infection or illness. If your baby has had a severe case of diarrhea, his body may temporarily have trouble producing lactase, and he may have symptoms of lactose intolerance for a week or two while the gut recovers.
- Celiac disease. This causes intestinal inflammation and can lead to lactose intolerance when your child starts eating foods that contain gluten around 6 months of age. Classic symptoms include diarrhea, poor appetite, belly distension and pain, and weight loss. This form of lactose intolerance goes away with treatment of the underlying celiac disease.
What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance in babies?
If your baby is lactose intolerant, he may have these symptoms about 30 minutes to two hours after drinking breast milk or eating dairy products like cheese or yogurt. Remember that babies should not drink cow's milk until their first birthday.
- Abdominal cramping
Some lactose-intolerant people can consume a small amount of dairy without symptoms. Others will be uncomfortable every time they have food containing even a small amount of lactose.
How is lactose intolerance in babies diagnosed?
Talk with your child's doctor if you think your baby is showing signs of lactose intolerance. She'll ask about your baby's symptoms to help determine whether or not it's a possibility.
To diagnose your baby, the doctor may:
- Suggest that you eliminate all sources of lactose from your baby's diet for a couple of weeks to see whether his symptoms subside.
- Arrange for a lactose intolerance test, which measures blood sugar levels before and after your baby has a lactose solution drink.
- Test your baby's poop. A fecal pH test can sometimes help show your baby is having trouble absorbing lactose or other carbohydrates.
- Refer your child to a gastroenterologist for further evaluation, if symptoms persist.
How is lactose intolerance treated in babies?
Treatment for lactose intolerance depends on the underlying cause and severity of your baby's symptoms, but may include:
- Dietary changes. When children are diagnosed with lactose intolerance, avoiding milk and other dairy products will relieve symptoms. This may require your baby to drink lactose-free formula. Once your baby starts eating solids, you may need to reduce or eliminate dairy products from his diet. Lactose-free and lactose-reduced milks are widely available in supermarkets.
- Lactase enzyme supplements. Your child's doctor may recommend these to help your baby digest foods that contain dairy.
- Referral to a registered dietician. If your child can't tolerate any dairy, the doctor may refer him to a dietician to make sure his diet includes adequate calcium and vitamin D.
You can also help your lactose-intolerant child by:
Reading labels. Some seemingly harmless foods contain milk products: pancake and cookie mixes, breakfast cereals, instant potatoes and soups, margarine, salad dressings, breads, and lunch meats. Check food labels for ingredients such as whey, curds, milk byproducts, dry milk solids, and nonfat dry milk powder. The law requires that products containing milk ingredients (or other common allergens) be clearly labeled as such.
Watching how your baby reacts to dairy. Some people who are lactose intolerant can digest small amounts of lactose, while others are very sensitive to the tiniest quantities. You'll probably learn through trial and error how much of which dairy foods your baby can handle.
If your baby is very sensitive, you'll want to avoid all sources of lactose. If not, you may be able to give him small amounts of selected dairy foods. He may find it easier to tolerate dairy products if he eats them along with other foods.
Making sure all of your baby's nutritional needs are met. If you need to eliminate dairy products from your baby's diet, you'll want to be sure that he has other sources of calcium, which helps bones and teeth grow strong. Non-dairy sources of calcium include leafy greens, fortified juices and soy milk, tofu, broccoli, canned salmon, oranges, and fortified breads. Lactose-free dairy products are now available in many grocery stores. They have the nutrients of regular dairy products without the lactose.
Other nutrients to be concerned about are vitamins A and D, riboflavin, and phosphorus. See our article on food sources of various nutrients for suggestions on how your child can get the nutrients he needs from non-dairy sources. Again, you might also find it helpful to consult a dietitian. If you find that it's difficult to get your baby all the nutrition he needs without dairy products, talk with his doctor about whether your baby might benefit from taking a vitamin or supplement.
Is lactose intolerance the same as a milk allergy?
No. An allergy is an immune response, whereas lactose intolerance is a lack of digestive enzymes, but the symptoms can be similar. Cow’s milk allergy is the most common food allergy among children, affecting roughly 2 percent of children less than 4 years of age.
Your baby might have a milk allergy if he develops these symptoms whenever he has dairy products:
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
- Itching and swelling of the face, lips or mouth
- Abdominal cramps
Children with a milk allergy usually show symptoms within the first 6 months of life. Fortunately, they tend to outgrow the allergy in early childhood. This is the opposite of the trend seen in lactose intolerance, which typically gets worse with age.