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Nutrition Library: Children and Nutrition

Lactose Intolerance

Some parents may think that their child or teen is lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is the inability to properly digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy foods. Lactose intolerance results in symptoms of bloating, gas, stomach cramping and diarrhea after eating dairy products.

However, most children can tolerate lactose. African-American, Mexican-American and American Indian children and Asian Pacific Islanders are more likely than Caucasian children to be lactose intolerant. Recent studies show, however, that even children diagnosed with lactose intolerance can drink one to two cups of milk each day without suffering abdominal discomfort.

Other sources of calcium

For children and teens with lactose intolerance, milk is often better tolerated when consumed with a meal. Some dairy foods, such as hard cheeses, or yogurt, contain less lactose than milk and cause fewer symptoms.

In addition, lactose-reduced and lactose-free milk products are now readily available in most supermarkets. For those who cannot tolerate any milk, dietary calcium can come from non-dairy sources such as green vegetables like broccoli and spinach. Alternatively, calcium-fortified foods, such as orange juice, or calcium tablets, which provide 200-500 mg per tablet, can serve as the source of necessary calcium.

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