What Happens If You Are Lactose Intolerant And Drink Milk?

Lactose intolerance is a condition characterized by an individual’s inability to digest lactose (sugar in milk or milk products). It is caused due to lack of lactase enzyme in the body that plays an important role in the digestion of lactose. It is not the same as allergic reactions to milk or milk products. It is also not a serious condition; it just creates uncomfortable symptoms when lactose is consumed. The symptoms of lactose intolerance are pain or cramps in the abdomen, bloating, nausea, gas or diarrhea.

What Happens If You Are Lactose Intolerant And Drink Milk?

Lactose is a form of natural sugar found in milk and milk products. It breaks down into two components of sugar, glucose, and galactose. An enzyme named lactase is secreted in the small intestine of our body that digests lactose into these sugar components. These components get absorbed in the blood for further body utilization in the form of energy

  • When lactase is deficient in the body due to various reasons,
  • Genetic makeup,
  • After some gastrointestinal diseases or infections,
  • Aging,
  • Some medicines like antibiotics

The person becomes glucose intolerant either temporarily or permanently from the above causes. This condition is called lactose intolerance. It is a gastrointestinal disturbance created in the body due to consumption of an amount of lactose that is not digested in the body. It is not similar to an allergy to milk.

Usually, a premature infant develops lactose intolerance soon after birth which goes after some days or weeks. Medicinal interference with lactose digestion can also settle down after some days. But some people develop lactose intolerance at a young age; they may have a family history. Lactose intolerance runs in families’ generation after generation.

When you are lactose intolerant and you drink milk or eat milk products, your body cannot digest lactose present in milk or milk products. The symptoms appear usually after 30 minutes to 2 hours of the meal. Lactose remains in its normal form and it cannot be separated into glucose and galactose due to deficiency of sufficient lactase enzyme. It travels to the large intestine and reacts with intestinal bacteria. In the intestine, lactose gets fermented by bacteria and represents abdominal symptoms. As these components of lactose remain combined, the body shows some uncomfortable symptoms. These symptoms are following-

The severity of symptoms completely depends on the amount of lactose consumed and lactase produced in the body. Symptoms reduce with the reduction in the lactose in your meal especially milk or milk products.

The Measures That Can Be Adopted To Avoid Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance Are

-Opt for lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk

-Avoid any other food items that contain lactose with milk or milk products in the same meal.

-Consumption of lactase enzyme supplement before dairy products is also helpful to tackle lactose intolerance.

-Juices fortified with calcium are also good option to handle calcium deficiency.

Yogurt or cheese can be used as a replacement for milk as they slow down the process of digestion and prevent lactose problems.

-Introduction of calcium-rich products like broccoli, tofu, beans or soy milk, can also help to tackle calcium deficiency.

-Avoid lactose-containing readymade, canned, frozen or boxed food like cereal, lunchmeats, bread, cakes, cookies, coffee creamers etc.


Lactose intolerance is a gastrointestinal disorder marked by the deficiency of an intestinal enzyme lactase needed for proper digestion of lactose found in milk or milk products. Avoiding milk or milk products will create the deficiency of calcium and vitamin D in the body. The slight modification of food like less intake of milk, other measures discussed above can be helpful to manage symptoms of lactose intolerance and calcium deficiency.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 28, 2018

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