Lactase pills: What are they and how do you use them?
Like a lot of other people who follow the Low FODMAP diet, I have a lactose intolerance. That means that I get stomach problems when I eat products that contain lactose, such as milk, yogurt and ice cream.
I usually use lactose-free products, but now and then I have a cappuccino or ice cream that does contain lactose. In order to do this, I take lactase pills to make sure that I won’t get any complaints and that works very well for me.
Because not everybody is aware of the existence of these pills I wanted to discuss them with you.
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What is a lactose intolerance
When you have a lactose intolerance your small intestine does not make or does not make enough lactase. Lactase is an enzyme that makes sure that your body digests lactose.
If your body doesn’t make lactase your large intestine does not properly digest lactose and you will get stomach problems when you eat products that contain lactose.
Often occurring symptoms that people with a lactose intolerance get are stomach ache, bloating, cramps and gas. Usually, these symptoms go away when they stop using lactose-containing products.
Most people with a lactose intolerance do tolerate a small amount of lactose, but it differs per person how much that is. It also depends on the lactose-containing product. Hard yellow cheese contain hardly any lactose, milk contains a lot of lactose and yogurt contains less lactose than milk, but more lactose than cheese.
Some people with a lactose intolerance can eat a small bowl of yogurt without any problems while this is too much for others. For me, cheeses, both white and yellow, don’t give any problems in a small portion. Yogurt, milk and ice cream already give problems in a small amount.
What are lactase pills and how do you use them?
When I found out I had a lactose intolerance my dietician told me about the existence of lactase pills. These supplements contain the enzyme lactase, which you miss in your intestine when you have a lactose intolerance.
If you take these pills while you consume something that contains lactose, the lactose will be digested by your body and you won’t get any problems.
Because the lactase supplements simply contain the enzyme lactase, they do no harm to your body and you can take several of them in a day. No research has been conducted on the effects of using these supplements when you are pregnant or breastfeed.
Because lactase pills only contain an enzyme that normally exists in your body naturally it is not expected that taking these supplements will do any harm, but because it has not been researched this cannot be said for sure.
Lactase pills are only suitable for people with a lactose intolerance, not for people with a milk allergy. Also, people with galactosemia can better avoid lactase pills and for people with diabetes, it is advised to contact your doctor first.
The strength of lactose pills is expressed in FCC. The higher the amount of FCC’s the more lactase the pill contains. Most brands of lactase pills in the Netherlands contain from 3.000 to 4.500 FCC.
But there are also supplements with a higher dose available for example 9.000 or 20.000 FCC. For example, the lactase pills from Lactaid contain 9.000 FCC. This means you will need fewer of these pills to avoid getting complaints from consuming lactose.
Where can you buy lactase pills?
My personal favourite brand is the Dutch brand Intoleran. They make strong lactase pills that work very well. The pills that I buy are:
- Lactase 20.000 – 20.000 FCC – 50 tablets – €24.95
- Lactase 10.000 – 10.000 FCC – 36 capsules – €23.95
- Lactase 3.000 – 3.000 FCC – 50 capsules – €16.50
- Lactase drops – 14 ml – €14.50 (You can use these drops to make normal milk, cream, condensed milk etc. low in lactose)
Intoleran also makes other supplements for the FODMAP diet: supplements that help your body digest fructose, fructans (onion and garlic!) and galactans (beans and legumes).
You can read more about these supplements in my blog about FODMAP supplements.
There are also different brands for lactase pills available such as:
- Kirkland signature fast acting lactase – 9000 FCC – 180 tablets – $22,88
- Lactaid (Make sure to check which kind of Lactaid you pick because some kinds contain mannitol, which is a FODMAP)
- LactoJoy – 14.500 FCC – 80 tablets – €25.99 (See my review about LactoJoy here)
When you follow the Low FODMAP diet it is advised to avoid using products that contain lactose in the elimination phase (unless they are green in the Monash FODMAP diet app). After the elimination phase, you can test using lactase pills if you want.
It is not possible to say exactly how many lactase you need to take to, for example, drink a glass of milk without problems. This is because people with a lactose intolerance usually make a bit of lactase, but not enough.
Therefore, the amount of lactose that gives problems differs per person and also how many lactase you need to avoid problems.
This simply is a process of trial and error. Just take a lactase pill and drink half a glass of milk, eat half a bowl of yoghurt or drink a cappuccino.
If this goes well you can try an entire glass of milk the next time. If this gives you problems, you can try taking two lactase pills instead of one. Like this, you can find out how much lactase you need to digest a certain amount of lactose.
It is important that you take the pill when you start consuming lactose. If you do this after or too long before consuming the lactose you can still get complaints.
I always use lactose-free milk and yoghurt at home, because it is available and I find it easier to use that instead of remembering to take a lactase pill every time.
But if I want to have an ice cream or drink a cappuccino in a restaurant I think lactase pills are a great option!
Did you already know lactase pills? And if yes, which brand do you use? If you have any question about the lactose supplements, feel free to ask them in the comments below!