Lactose Intolerance: How Long Do Symptoms Last?

Lactose intolerance is a condition that seems like an obstruction to people who love dairy products. How long do lactose intolerance symptoms last? Is there any treatment? Do I have to do away with milk completely? Read on as we unveil the answer together.

Woman holding a glass of milk

An estimated seventy-five percent of the world’s population is thought to have lactose intolerance. This condition is characterized by digestive problems after eating dairy products. It causes symptoms like bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. How long do lactose intolerance symptoms last? The answer to this varies as we will soon see. You rightly guessed that lactose intolerance has to do with lactose, which is one of the main dairy product carbohydrate sources. People with this condition are not able to make sufficient lactase enzyme, which is required for the digestion of lactose.

There are different classes of carbohydrates and lactase belongs to the class of disaccharide. This means it has two sugars, glucose, and galactose sugar. The enzyme lactase has to dismantle lactose into galactose and glucose which is then easily absorbed by the blood and used as an energy source. If the amount of lactase is not sufficient then the lactose will be transported from the gut undigested. This is what results in digestive symptoms.

Lactose Intolerance Causes

This condition has two main causes;

1. The primary form of lactose intolerance  

This is the most common cause of this condition. It occurs when the production of lactase decreases with age until lactose is no longer absorbed properly. Genes are a partial cause of this because some populations experience it more than others. A study revealed that five to seventeen percent of Europeans, forty-four Americans, and sixty to eighty Asians and Africans are lactose intolerant.

2. The secondary form of lactose intolerance

This is a rare type and is mostly as a result of illnesses as mild as a stomach bug or as serious as celiac disease. It causes gut wall inflammation which leads to a short-term decline in the production of lactase.

How Long Do Lactose Intolerance Symptoms Last?

If left unmanaged, lactose intolerance may lead to serious digestive problems. Some of its common symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, gas, and abdominal cramps. There might also be a feeling of urgency to use the toilet, vomiting, nausea, occasional constipation, and lower belly pain.

Diarrhea happens because of the undigested lactose present in the small intestine and this permits water to be transported into the digestive tract. As soon as it enters the colon, lactose fermentation takes place in the gut and forms gas and short-chain fatty acids. This, in turn, causes flatulence, pain, and bloating. How serious the symptoms depend on the amount of lactose an individual can tolerate.

Lactose intolerance symptoms typically last for a couple of hours, mostly over the night. Again this may differ among individuals but because of occurrence, you can get to know how long your symptoms usually last.

What To Do

To avoid lactose would require you to avoid dairy. Diary is a general term used as a description of milk or milk products. It is an essential protein, vitamins, and calcium source and also highly nutritious. Cutting out dairy from your diet would mean missing out on many nutrients plus diary benefits which include a decreased type 2 diabetes risk and obesity.

Some of the dairy products you might have to stay away from are all types of cow’s milk, goat milk, soft and hard cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream. Other foods also contain lactose at times like sauce made with milk, cookies, biscuits, confectionery, chocolate, baked goods, bread, cakes, breakfast cereals, sauces, gravies, custards, desserts, potato chips, flavored tortillas, nuts, and ready meals.

There is good news and that is there is still an amount of lactose that can be tolerated. Some dairy products have low lactose content naturally, for example, 20 grams of butter contains 0.1 lactose gram. Some types of cheese also have lesser than one lactose gram per serving like the month Monterey, mozzarella, swiss, and Colby

Lactose Intolerance Treatment

If you are among a group of people who love their dairy products so much and do not want to give them up then there are some natural remedies to this lactose intolerance. 

Enzyme supplements

There are enzyme supplements that can supply your body with the enzyme for digesting lactose. These tables can either be swallowed or added in drops to your drinks and foods. However, how effective these supplements are overseen, people.

Lactose exposure

Regular inclusion of lactose in ones one’s can help the body adapt to the presence of lactose, there are a few studies on this but positive results have been shown in some. In a study, nine people who were lactose intolerant ate lactose for sixteen days and there were notable three-three-folders of lactose production.

More trial needs to be carried out before this will become a recommended treatment option, but there is still the possibility of training your gut by eating lactose more often.

Prebiotics and Probiotics

Some microorganisms supply health benefits upon consumption, and prebiotics is one of them. Prebiotics are a kind of fiber that serves as phobia otic food. They feed it in the gut, and these enable the microorganisms to thrive.

Prebiotics and probiotics have both been shown to decrease lactose intolerance symptoms although few studies are presently available. It is suggested that some kinds of prebiotics and probiotics are more effective on lactose intolerance. An example of this is Bifidobacteria which is usually found in supplements and yogurts.


How long do lactose intolerance symptoms last? This differs between individuals but for most, it comes and goes within a few days. If you are lactose intolerant you may not need to do away completely with dairy products because there are benefits to us. Thankfully some products contain little amount of lactose and might not cause any harm.

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