Lactose is the sugars that are found in milk and dairy products. The lactose is digested by an enzyme called lactase, which is made in the intestinal track. The symptoms of stomach cramps, bloating, gas and diarrhea that a child suffers after they have ingested dairy products is causes by the lactose that hasn’t been digested by the enzyme and stays in the intestine. Symptoms usually start to affect the child within twp hours after drinking or eating products that contain the lactose, sometime causing discomfort within 30 minutes.
There are different levels of intolerance to lactose, and some children are able to eat some foods containing dairy products while others develop symptoms when they have only had a small amount of lactose introduced into their diet.
Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergy
Lactose Intolerance is not the same as a milk allergy. Lactose intolerance is a digestive condition, while an allergy to milk involves the immune system. An allergy to cows milk could involve reactions to any of the proteins in the milk. A milk allergy could be life threatening to a child who ingests even a small amount of milk or even products that contain milk. Tests can be performed on children who show symptoms of either of the health problems by a medical professional.
A milk allergy can show up in children before their first birthday, while lactose intolerance usually doesn’t present itself until adulthood, even though some children over the age of 2 years develope it.
What Parents can Do
Some non-dairy products contain lactose, so it’s important for parents to read the lables on the food product that they feed to their children. Some of the food products on the grocery store shelves that could contain lactose include:baked goods, including bread, biscuits, pancakes, cookies waffles, doughnuts, cereals, breakfast drinks, potato chips, corn chips, instant potatoes, salad dressing, soups, milk based meal replacement, candy, non-dairy toppings, processed meat, margarine>/p>
In addition to lactose, look for the following ingredients as they also contain lactose and could cause symptoms in a child: milk, curds, whey, non-fat dry milk powder, dry milk solids, milk by-products.
Talk to the child’s medical care provider or a registered dietitian to make sure that the child that is suffering from lactose intolerance eats a diet with enough nutrients. Calcium and vitamin D may need to be supplemented to replace the nutrients they are missing out on with the exclusion of dairy.