Do you suffer from abdominal cramping and bloating? Can’t tolerate milk? You’re not alone.

Lactose intolerance, also called lactase deficiency and hypolactasia, is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and to a lesser extent dairy products.

Lactose intolerant individuals have inadequate levels of lactase, an enzyme that catalyzes hydrolysis of lactose into glucose and galactose, in their digestive system. In most cases this causes symptoms which may include abdominal bloating and cramps, flatulence, diarrhea, nausea, rumbling stomach, or vomiting after consuming significant amounts of lactose. Some studies have produced evidence that milk consumption by lactose intolerant individuals may be a significant cause of inflammatory bowel disease (National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, 2011).


To measure lactose intolerance, intestinal function is disputed by ingesting more dairy products than can be readily digested. Clinical symptoms typically emerge within 30 minutes, but may take up to two hours, depending on other foods and activities. Substantial changeability in response (symptoms of nausea, cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence) is to be expected, as the extent and severity of lactose intolerance varies among individuals.

Lactose intolerance is dissimilar from milk allergy, an immune response to cow’s milk protein. They may be distinguished in diagnosis by giving lactose-free milk, generating no symptoms in the case of lactose intolerance, but the same reaction as to normal milk in the presence of a milk allergy. It is possible for a person to have both conditions.

If positive confirmation is needed, tests are available.

  • Hydrogen breath test; This is the most accurate lactose intolerance test.
  • Blood test
  • Stool acidity test
  • Intestinal biopsy
  • Stool sugar chromatography
  • Genetic diagnostic

Lactose intolerance is not usually an absolute condition: The decrease in lactase production, and the amount of lactose that can therefore be tolerated, varies from person to person. Since lactose intolerance poses no further threat to a person’s health, the condition is accomplished by minimizing the incidence and severity of symptoms.

Berdanier and Hargrove recognise four general beliefs in dealing with lactose intolerance—avoidance of dietary lactose, substitution to maintain nutrient intake, regulation of calcium intake and use of enzyme substitute.

Alternative products

Plant-based “milks” and derivatives such as soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk, oat milk, hemp milk, and peanut milk are inherently lactose-free.

Duquessa Skin Clinic Melbourne on 03 9388 9500 or email

Katherine Millar-Shannon