Lactose Intolerance

Although lactose intolerance can't be cured, symptoms can be controlled with a modified diet that reduces dairy intake or, if necessary, avoids dairy altogether. Most children don't require a completely lactose-free diet. Our team's doctors and dietitians will work closely with you and your child to develop a diet that best meets your child's nutritional needs.

Studies show that the following strategies can help control symptoms:

  • Drink low-fat or fat-free milk in servings of 1 cup or less.
  • Consume low-fat or fat-free milk with other food, such as breakfast cereal.
  • Consume dairy products other than milk, such as low-fat or fat-free hard cheeses, cottage cheese, ice cream or yogurt. These foods contain less lactose per serving compared with milk and may cause fewer symptoms.
  • Choose lactose-free milk and milk products, which have an equivalent amount of calcium and vitamin D as regular milk.
  • Use over-the-counter pills or drops that contain lactase, which can help eliminate symptoms altogether.
  • Consume calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice with added calcium, soy beverages with added calcium, and some fortified breads and breakfast cereals. Some non-dairy foods, such as spinach and broccoli, are also healthy sources of calcium. However, the body absorbs much less calcium from these foods compared to milk or milk products.

A calcium supplement may be recommended if your child can't get enough calcium from diet alone. Vitamin D is necessary for the body to absorb calcium, so your child's diet should also provide an adequate supply of vitamin D. Vitamin D sources include eggs, liver and sunlight.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Gastroenterology & Nutritional Disorders

Gastroenterology & Liver Practice
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2813
Fax: (415) 476-1343
Appointment information