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Lactose Intolerance and the Role of Nutrition Counselling

Lactose Intolerance and the Role of Nutrition Counselling

Lactose intolerance is a common digestive disorder that affects individuals who have difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. In this blog post, we will explore the known causes of lactose intolerance, available treatment options, the nutritional impact of the condition, ongoing research, and how nutrition counselling can be beneficial. Additionally, we will provide reliable Canadian sources with links for further information.

Causes of Lactose Intolerance:

Lactose intolerance occurs when the body lacks sufficient lactase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose. There are three primary types of lactose intolerance:

  1. Primary Lactose Intolerance: This is the most common type and is caused by a natural decline in lactase production that occurs as individuals age.

  2. Secondary Lactose Intolerance: It can develop as a result of gastrointestinal diseases, such as celiac disease, Crohn's disease, or infections that damage the lining of the small intestine.

  3. Congenital Lactase Deficiency: A rare genetic condition where infants are born with little to no lactase production.

Treatment of Lactose Intolerance:

While there is no cure for lactose intolerance, several strategies can help manage the condition:

  1. Dietary Modifications: The primary approach involves limiting or avoiding lactose-containing foods and beverages. Lactase supplements or lactase-treated dairy products may be used to improve lactose digestion.

  2. Gradual Lactose Introduction: Some individuals can tolerate small amounts of lactose over time. Gradually reintroducing lactose-containing foods and monitoring tolerance can be an option for certain individuals.

Nutritional Impact:

Lactose intolerance can affect nutrition in several ways, including:

  1. Calcium Intake: Lactose intolerance may limit the consumption of dairy products, which are a significant source of calcium. Adequate alternative sources of calcium, such as fortified non-dairy milk, leafy greens, and fortified tofu, should be included in the diet.

  2. Vitamin D Intake: Dairy products are also a source of vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in calcium absorption. Individuals with lactose intolerance should ensure sufficient sun exposure or consider vitamin D supplements.

  3. Nutrient Adequacy: Restricting lactose-containing foods may affect overall nutrient intake. A registered dietitian can help develop a well-balanced diet that meets nutritional needs.

Research on Lactose Intolerance:

Ongoing research on lactose intolerance focuses on various aspects, including:

  1. Genetic Factors: Studies aim to understand the genetic variations that contribute to lactose intolerance and its prevalence in different populations.

  2. Lactase Enzyme Supplements: Research investigates the effectiveness of different lactase enzyme supplements in improving lactose digestion and symptoms.

  3. Impact on Gut Microbiota: Studies explore the relationship between lactose intolerance, gut microbiota composition, and potential dietary interventions.

How Can Nutrition Counselling Help?

Nutrition counselling plays a crucial role in managing lactose intolerance. A registered dietitian can provide:

  1. Individualized Meal Plans: A dietitian can develop personalized meal plans that exclude or limit lactose-containing foods while ensuring adequate nutrient intake.

  2. Education and Guidance: Dietitians can educate individuals about hidden sources of lactose, label reading, and alternative calcium and vitamin D-rich food sources.

  3. Symptom Management: Dietitians can help identify trigger foods and provide strategies to manage symptoms effectively.

Canadian Sources for Information:

  1. Dietitians of Canada - Lactose Intolerance:

  2. Canadian Digestive Health Foundation - Lactose Intolerance:


Lactose intolerance is a common digestive disorder that can significantly impact an individual's diet and nutritional status. Understanding the causes, available treatments, and nutritional implications of lactose intolerance is essential for effectively managing the condition. Ongoing research aims to enhance our understanding of lactose intolerance and explore potential interventions. Nutrition counselling, provided by a registered dietitian, can offer valuable guidance and support in developing appropriate meal plans and managing lactose intolerance-related challenges.


  1. Dietitians of Canada - Lactose Intolerance:

  2. Canadian Digestive Health Foundation - Lactose Intolerance:

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