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Lactose intolerance

Coeliac disease is a frequent cause of secondary lactose intolerance.

Untreated coeliac disease results in damage to the lining of the gut. The enzyme lactase is found in the brush border of the small intestine. This is why people with coeliac disease can be deficient in lactase at diagnosis.

Once established on a gluten free diet, the gut is able to heal and lactose digestion returns to normal. Lactose intolerance is therefore usually temporary. However, it can take up to a couple of years for lactase production to return to normal depending on how long it takes the gut to heal.

Lactose intolerance is treated by avoiding or restricting lactose. The amount of lactose people can manage in the diet depends on the degree of lactase deficiency. People with lactose intolerance should be given dietary advice to make sure there is enough calcium in their diet from non dairy sources. Some people may need to take calcium supplements. Individuals should have their diet assessed and advice should be given on an individual basis by the healthcare team. We have information on lactose intolerance and a downloadable leaflet you can use to help your patients.

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