Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Lactase: The Miracle Cure

Lactase. It's the enzyme that digests the milk sugar lactose. If your body stops making it, if your body merely decreases its production of lactase, undigested lactose continues to move through your digestive system.

This can have two major consequences, both bad. One is that the lactose pulls water into your intestines, the opposite of what normally occurs. Excess water in the intestines leads to diarrhea. The other is that the lactose can be fermented by bacteria that naturally live in your colon, creating the gas that you feel as cramps, bloating, and flatulence.

The cure for this? Lactase pills. The lactase enzyme, or a variant of it, can be produced by yeasts and other microbes. Some of these bacteria are found in yogurt, kefir, and other cultured milk products, and so can be introduced into your system. Or you can take a probiotic pill that contains these bacteria. That may be enough for you.

If not, take a lactase pill. Or several if necessary. They're relatively cheap and easily available, findable at all supermarkets, pharmacies and discounters. Most brands are the same, although each has slightly different composition and fillers, so they may work differently for you. If one brand doesn't work, try another before you give up on them.

I remember the days before lactase pills existed. Believe me, I never want to go back to them.

And all that intro brings me to the questions I keep getting asked.

When should I take a pill?

The best time is just before you start eating. That gives the lactase a head start to get to your intestines before the food does. The lactase works in the small intestine, just as naturally produced lactase does.

How many should I take?

As many as you need. There are no known side effects to lactase and no known overdose. Any lactase your body doesn't use gets eliminated with the rest of the waste. If one pill doesn't work, try two or three.

If two or three are good, does that mean a dozen is even better?

Probably not. You only need enough lactase to digest the amount of lactose you're having in that one meal. You have to work out through trial - and occasionally error - just how many pills will balance off how much lactose in your particular case. Even so, a dozen pills is probably overkill. There's no reason to think that you'll need that much.

What if I eat something else with lactose late in the meal?

We all get tempted by dessert at times, even if we hadn't planned on it. If you hadn't anticipated an additional lactose load, then take an extra pill.

What if I have something an hour later?

Same answer. The lactase should stay in your system for several hours. If you took enough to begin with you don't need to to keep adding more all the time. If you didn't take enough at first, then add more.

Should I take lactase with every meal?

If you extra to have lactose with every meal, then yes.

Can I give lactase to my children?

Lactase should be perfectly safe to give even small children. There are chewable pills if they have trouble swallowing pills. You can also crush the pills into their food.

What is the children's dosage?

There is no special children's dosage. Lactase is not a medication or a drug. It is a natural body enzyme that works only on lactose. If your child has an 8 ounce glass of milk, exactly the small amount of lactase is needed as if an adult had an 8 ounce glass of milk. The amount of lactase always depends on the amount of lactose to be eaten.

I think that covers the most frequent questions. If you have any be, be sure to drop a question in the comments.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you. Very good information. Until very recently, I struggled with the issues of not taking a lactose supplement... ...for many years. Only recently I self-diagnosed despite presenting symptoms to my physician over the years without a diagnosis. What a blessing to know about replacing this natural missing substance. If anyone out there suspects they need this - do a test with milk with the lactase and again without a day or two later and note the difference. Proved it for me.

Unknown said...

Nice and useful info. I have been suffering from urticaria (hives) for last ten years and finding solution by myself as no other doctor can treat permanently. I need your help for mutual discussion about my disease and role of lactose (as I have tested myself on the ground of many different psycho).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I was worried about side effects and overdose of lactase. Good to know there are none. Also didn't know about the lactase staying in your system for several hours. Have suffered L.I. for many years & taken the lactase for years also. This info is very useful & will save me money and stress.
Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Do you know if you can make your own lactose-free milk by adding crushed lactase pills (or open and empty lactase capsules) and let it sit for 24hrs. Lactaid doesn't sell their drops in the US and it's expensive to order from Canada.

Anonymous said...

My hives had to do with my thyroid (I would get hives in cold weather!) It wasn't diagnosed with the regular (TSH??) test, but rathera different one...worth looking hives have stopped after many years after starting back on thyroid meds. Really hope you figure it is up to you now to do research...doctors sometimes don't get it...

Adylaid said...

Is the 24 hour thing necessary? I was thinking of pulling open some capsules later and having the powder blended in with a froyo shake. I find varying information on the lactose content of froyo, probably because the brands vary wildly, but this particular shop can give me a bit of trouble sometimes so I just take one if I can't resist. Also just heard about the drops today. May have my Canadian friend pick some up and mail them to me! LOL

Unknown said...

I just wanted to encourage people to try lactase if they think they might have a LI. I usually just avoid milk -- but was recently at a women's retreat where I had to share a cabin with several women. The food was delicious, but I did not know the amount of diary in the food. I started taking a Lactaid pill before each meal, and was amazed at how much better I felt -- even when I did not have large amounts of milk or other obvious dairy.