What is lactose intolerance?

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Lactose intolerance is a condition that occurs when the small intestine doesn’t make enough of the enzyme called lactase, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The enzyme is needed to digest lactose, which is a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other types of dairy products, according to the NIH.

Lactase is able to break down the milk sugar into two simpler kinds of sugar that can be absorbed into the bloodstream, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

When there is not enough lactase to digest the lactose in the foods a person eats or drinks, the person may have

  • gas
  • stomach cramps
  • bloating
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

These symptoms typically occur within 30 minutes to two hours after consuming food containing lactose. Some illnesses can cause these same problems, but a health care professional can do tests to see if the problems are caused by lactose intolerance or by another condition.

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