4 Types of Milk Intolerance

lactose free baby milk

Milk intolerance, or lactose intolerance, is a digestive disorder caused by the inability to digest lactose. It is a common disorder that affects around 75% of the world’s population.

When a patient with milk intolerance consume lactose, the main carbohydrate in dairy products, it can cause symptoms such as abdominal cramps, bloating and diarrhoea. They have to avoid lactose or substitute their food with other alternatives. For example, there is lactose-free baby milk for milk intolerant babies.

Types of milk intolerance


  • Primary lactose intolerance


This intolerance is the most common form. It happens when the body stops making the lactase enzyme as early as five years old. As the lactase levels decrease, patients find it harder to digest dairy products as they grow up. It is more common among African, Asian, Hispanic, Mediterranean and southern European people than people from northern or western Europe.

lactose free baby milk


  • Secondary lactose intolerance


This intolerance is rare but it can happen when a patient experiences injury, illness or surgery that causes inflammation in the gut. It leads to a temporary decline in lactase production, causing patients to be milk intolerant. Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease are examples of intestinal diseases related to low level of lactase.


  • Congenital lactase deficiency


Also known as congenital alactasia, this rare disorder has been reported in only a few infants. Babies with this intolerance can’t break down lactose in breast milk or formula milk and will suffer from diarrhoea. Affected infants may develop severe dehydration and weight loss if not given lactose-free infant formula.


  • Developmental lactose intolerance


When a mother gives birth to a baby prematurely, usually before the 37th week of pregnancy, there are chances that the infant may have developmental lactose intolerance. An undeveloped small intestine causes this intolerance but it is usually only temporary, and the baby can consume milk not long after birth.

Is milk allergy the same?

People use the terms milk intolerance and milk allergy interchangeably, but they are not the same. A person with milk intolerance lacks the enzyme to digest the sugar in dairy products, whereas a person with a milk allergy is allergic to the proteins in milk.

The symptoms for dairy allergies are more severe than milk intolerance and can be life-threatening. A person with milk intolerance may still consume a small amount of dairy, but people with a milk allergy need to avoid all dairy products.


There is no cure for lactose intolerance, but patients can manage their symptoms with diet changes. There are also tablets or pills containing the lactase enzyme to help digest the carbohydrates in dairy products.

If your infant has no tolerance for lactose, get Isomil Plus. Visit https://abbottnutrition.com.my/products/isomil-plus for more information.