Toddler: Does lactose intolerance cause loose stools?

I'm not sure that my son is lactose intolerant. He is two years old and eats great. I noticed that when he eats or drinks a lot of dairy products, he has very loose stools. He loves milk and cheese and I would hate to take them away from him if this is not the problem. Do you think he could be lactose intolerant?


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Lactose intolerance does cause loose stools. It can also cause gas, cramps and bloating because the sugar in milk is not digesting. Does your son experience these symptoms? If so, that would be more of an indication that he is lactose intolerant.

People experience different degrees of sensitivity. Your son may be free of these other problems. Lactose intolerance does not always require the complete elimination of lactose containing foods. The problem is very dose dependent. Often a small glass of milk eaten with a meal will not cause any problem at all, but two or three glasses on an empty stomach will.

Try serving your son small amounts of dairy at mealtimes. Some dairy products are easier to digest because the lactose has already been predigested to a certain degree. Yogurt is an example. The bacteria cultures used to make yogurt breakdown much of the lactose in the milk. This is one reason plain yogurt is not as sweet as fresh milk. YOur son should be able to tolerate yogurt more easily than milk.

To fully confirm your suspicions, try keeping a food diary, writing down when your son has dairy products, how much of it he has, and with what other foods. Then also note any resulting symptoms and their severity. See if you can identify a consistent pattern. This information may be useful when you discuss this on your next visit to the doctor.

Besides serving dairy in small amounts, you may also serve to your son a lactose reduced milk.

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