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Lactose-Restricted Diet in Children: Care Instructions


Lactose is a sugar that is in milk and milk products. Some people do not make enough of an enzyme called lactase, which digests lactose. When this happens it can cause gas, belly pain, diarrhea, and bloating. This is called lactose intolerance. This is not the same as a food allergy to milk.

With planning, your child can avoid lactose and still eat a tasty and nutritious diet. And your child can still get enough calcium to build and maintain healthy bones. Your doctor and dietitian will help you design a diet. It will be based on your child's level of lactose intolerance and what your child likes to eat. Always talk with your doctor or dietitian before you make changes in your child's diet.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Limit the amount of milk and milk products in your child's diet. Give small amounts of milk or milk products throughout the day, instead of larger amounts all at once.
    • If your child has bad symptoms when eating or drinking something with lactose, your child may need to avoid it completely.
    • If you are not sure whether a milk product causes symptoms, try a small amount first. Wait to see how your child feels before eating or drinking more.
  • Have your child try yogurt and cheese. These have less lactose than milk. So they may not cause problems.
  • Have your child eat or drink milk and milk products that have reduced lactose. In most grocery stores, you can buy milk with reduced lactose. One example is Natrel milk.
  • Use lactase products. These are dietary supplements that help your child digest lactose. Some lactase products are pills that your child chews before eating or drinking milk products. Some are liquids that you add to milk 24 hours before your child drinks it. Try a few products and brands to see which ones work best for your child.
  • Have your child try other foods, such as soy beverage and soy cheese, instead of milk and milk products.
  • If your child is very sensitive to lactose, read labels closely to spot the lactose products.
    • Some medicines have lactose.
    • Prepared foods that may have lactose include breads, baked goods, breakfast cereals, instant breakfast drinks, instant potatoes, instant soups, baking mixes (such as pancake, cookie, and biscuit mixes), margarine, salad dressings, candies, milk chocolate, and other snacks.
    • Lactose may also be called whey, curds, or milk products.
  • Be sure your child gets enough calcium in their diet. This is important if your child avoids milk products completely. Calcium is very important because it keeps bones strong. Ask your dietitian for advice on how to make sure your child gets enough calcium. Foods that have calcium include:
    • Broccoli, bok choy, kale, and collard, mustard, and turnip greens.
    • Canned sardines.
    • Calcium-fortified orange juice.
    • Soy products such as calcium-fortified soy beverage and tofu.
    • Almonds.
    • Dried beans.
  • If you are worried about your child getting enough nutrients, ask your doctor about using supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse belly pain.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.