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Is Your Child Lactose Intolerant?

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After consuming dairy, does your child get stomach aches?  Lactose intolerance, occurs when lactose, a sugar in milk and dairy products, cannot be digested. Our bodies need the digestive enzyme lactase to digest lactose. Those with lactose intolerance don’t produce enough lactase. When lactose isn’t digested in the intestinal tract, gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea and bloating can occur.

Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem not a milk allergy involving the immune system. It may be genetic and is more prevalent among Asians, African Americans and Hispanics. It can develop in children between three and six years old, when bodies are making less lactase. After diarrhea, intestinal damage can cause a temporary shortage of lactase and intolerance to dairy for one to two weeks.  

Dodge dairy Try eliminating dairy from your child’s diet for two weeks. If symptoms improve without dairy but worsen with reintroduction, your child may be lactose intolerant. If you’re concerned about your child, speak to your child’s doctor.

How is it treated? Treatment is individualized as tolerance varies. Some can eat yogurt and aged cheeses because the lactose in these products is broken down when they’re made. Over-the-counter lactase pills can aid in digesting dairy products but consult your child’s doctor first. For children on lactose-restricted diets, include sufficient foods rich in calcium, vitamin D and riboflavin.

Lactose intolerance is easily manageable. Speak to your child’s doctor for more information.

Becky Biqi Chen was a resident in general pediatrics for three years at the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre. She is currently specializing in pediatric gastroenterology during her fellowship at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital.


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