Lactose intolerance in children: What does it mean?
In children, milk or lactose intolerance occurs when the enzyme responsible for the digestion of lactose is either missing or does not function well. Lactose or dairy intolerance is a common health condition, and lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose (a form of sugar), isn’t sufficient to break down the lactose. As a result, the lactose, which is originally in the small intestine, reaches the large intestine in the undigested form, and warning signs develop. Some of the common dairy protein intolerance symptoms are pain in the belly, bloated feeling, flatulence, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Milk allergy in toddlers can be disheartening for parents, as milk is one of the most wholesome and nutritious foods for children. However, lactose intolerance in toddlers does not mean that they should completely stop consuming milk.
What can be done in such a situation?
As per paediatric research conducted on this subject, kids below the age of 3 years do not usually develop such intolerance. But if they do, parents will need to feed their babies alternative foods that do not contain lactose. This will prevent any sort of discomfort or possible health hazards.
Alternative food sources should be provided depending on the severity of the intolerance. Soy milk and similar products are commonly recommended as they contain decent amounts of calcium. And as you might be already aware, calcium is critical for the development of teeth and bones. If your baby is allergic to soy products too, almond or rice milk can be offered.
Apart from feeding kids lactose-free foods, it is also recommended to limit the quantity of the feeds. For example, once in 4 hours is ideal. Overfeeding toddlers is a complete no too, as it may worsen the symptoms.
It might also help you to know that many lactose-intolerant kids can consume milk or milk products in smaller quantities, without developing any symptoms. However, some kids may react severely to even a small quantity, and hence, consulting a doctor is a must. He or she will be able to chalk out a lactose-intolerant toddler diet plan.
Treating lactose intolerance in kids
Treating lactose intolerance begins with understanding the signs. Parents should note that dairy protein intolerance symptoms might be similar to the signs of other diseases. However, if you notice these symptoms regularly, after your child consumes dairy products, it most probably indicates lactose intolerance.
Some kids are lactose-deficient as well and this can lead to sudden lactose intolerance in toddlers. Such children show obvious signs when they consume too much dairy. But, consuming dairy items till the tolerance level is reached might not show any sign.
There is no known way in which the human body can be made to produce more lactase. But there are supplements and alternatives available for lactose-intolerant kids. Lactase for babies can be administered if the infant is preterm, so that he or she can digest milk easily.
All in all, getting your kid tested by a paediatrician is the best way to identify lactose intolerance. Vomiting, stomach pain and a bloated feeling are common signs, as mentioned before. If the test results are negative, then the symptoms can be due to some other problem.
How can you compensate for the missing nutrients?
While milk is the go-to nutritious beverage for almost every child, it has to be pushed to the side when he or she is found to be lactose-intolerant. Also, calcium is not the only essential nutrient in milk. It also provides proteins, vitamin D and potassium. Hence, the following list of alternatives can help you replace the lost nutrients that your child would have otherwise got from milk:
- Eggs provide protein, riboflavin, iron and vitamin D
- Wheat contains ample B vitamins and iron
- Soy is a good source of calcium, iron, riboflavin, zinc, and vitamin B6. Soy milk is a good milk alternative
- Peanuts and other tree nuts provide proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Almond milk is a nut milk that can be provided instead of cow milk
- Fish is a rich source of proteins and vitamins
While a lactose-intolerant child tends to miss out on quite a few vital nutrients present in milk, there are many alternatives in the market today, which can help. So, consult a dietician and start exploring the various options based on your child’s age, height, weight and dietary habits.