Lactose In MedicationLactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of an enzyme called lactase. Normally, when lactose is ingested, lactase breaks down the lactose into glucose and galactose and it is mostly absorbed into the body.


When a deficiency of lactase exists, lactose is allowed to continue on the digestive tract and enter the large intestine. Once lactose is in the large intestine, it causes an osmotic shift in which excess fluid and electrolytes can build up and can have a laxative effect. This osmotic shift causes these symptoms that are normally associated with lactose intolerance.


In addition, undigested lactose in the colon ferments due to the actions of gastrointestinal bacteria. The fermentation process generally produces various gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen, all of which can cause stomach cramping and distension.


The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • Stomach bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach Pain


The amount of lactose that needs to be ingested to produce symptoms of lactose intolerance varies greatly by individual. Most studies cite that it generally takes the equivalent of 8 to 12 ounce glass of milk to cause negative symptoms, but of course, lesser amounts could certainly cause symptoms in certain individuals.


There is such a small amount of lactose present in medication, that the vast majority of individuals with lactose intolerance can safely take them without any negative effects. However, there are documented instances where individuals who are extremely lactose sensitive can have negative effects from the ingredients of medications.    


If you do experience negative symptoms associated with the lactose in medications then you can take enzyme supplements such as Lactaid to help alleviate the symptoms. If taking enzyme supplements do not help alleviate negative supplements, you should discontinue the offending medications if possible. 


For most generic drugs, there are multiple manufacturers producing them, each with a different set of inactive ingredients. There is a good chance that your pharmacy can find you a product that does not contain lactose. If there is not an alternative product available to you, be sure to let your doctor know so they can determine another medication that will work for you.