Constipation Caused by Lactose Intolerance

African boy eating cereal
A young boy is eating cereal with milk. (Image: LWA/Dann Tardif/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Lactose intolerance does not cause constipation; it causes diarrhea. Constipation after drinking or eating dairy products is the result of milk protein intolerance. The two conditions are commonly confused with one another but are very different in their cause. Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder that occurs in the small intestine due to a deficiency of proper enzymes, while milk protein intolerance is the digestive system's inability to process the proteins, whey and casein, found in cow’s milk.

Milk and Constipation

Constipation from milk is caused by milk intolerance. Milk intolerance is not a milk allergy, which causes diarrhea. A milk allergy is a hypersensitivity of the immune system to the proteins found in milk and is not directly related to the digestive system. Milk intolerance is more common in children and is typically accompanied by eczema, asthma-like symptoms and ear infections. Milk protein intolerance is the result of the small intestine not being able to digest the proteins in milk. This causes the stool to harden and blocks the ability of the colon to expel the waste.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is similar in that it is a digestive disorder, not to the proteins found in milk but to the sugar. Lactose is a complex sugar that is found primarily in milk products. The sugar is too complex for the body to naturally absorb it. It requires the production of the lactase enzyme to simplify the sugar into galactose and glucose. You lack lactase if you’re lactose intolerant, which means that your body cannot fully digest the lactose. This results in bloating, gas, nausea, cramping and diarrhea within two hours of consuming dairy.

Milk Intolerance Treatment

The most effective treatment for milk protein intolerance is the elimination of all milk products from your diet. Removing dairy from your diet may result in a lack of calcium and vitamin D, which you can remedy either through supplements or by eating foods that are rich in these nutrients. Talk with your doctor about changing your diet before you remove dairy products.

Lactose Intolerance Treatment

You can effectively prevent symptoms of lactose intolerance by taking a lactase supplement before consuming milk products. Some dairy companies make lactose-free milk by adding lactase during the manufacturing process. Using these products will prevent symptoms from forming.

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