Understanding lactose intolerance

Lactose often gets a bad rap, with many people self-diagnosing their children with lactose intolerance when they experience digestive discomfort after drinking cow milk. The truth is that the chance of children under six developing lactose intolerance is rare. So what should we know about lactose – and what else might be causing the symptoms?

What is lactose?

Lactose is the main carbohydrate source of all milk, including breast milk. Lactose is made up of two simple sugars, glucose and galactose. No matter what the milk source – cow, goat or human – the lactose it contains is molecularly identical. The lactose in Kabrita Toddler Formula comes from cow milk, which is molecularly identical to lactose found in goat or breast milk. All lactose is created equal.

What is lactose intolerance?

In some people, the enzyme lactase is deficient or lacking altogether. Lactose intolerance is associated with inadequate breakdown and subsequent malabsorption of lactose. When this occurs, bacteria in the colon ferment the undigested lactose, leading to digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas, and bloating.

Lactose intolerance is very rare

Both galactosemia and congenital lactase deficiency, also called congenital alactasia, are very rare disorders in which infants are unable to break down lactose in breast milk or formula. According to the National Newborn Screening and Genetics Resource Center, galactosemia occurs once in every 48,000 births. Even in Finland, where congenital alactasia is most common, it only affects one in every 60,000 births.

Most infants produce lactase in order to digest lactose provided by their mother’s milk. In children younger than 6 years, the rate of lactose intolerance is low. In most populations, lactase does not begin to decrease until age 3-5.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “No studies have documented that these [Lactose-free or reduced lactose] formulas have any clinical impact on infant outcome measures including colic, growth, or development.”

What else can cause these symptoms?

Many parents diagnose their child’s uncomfortable symptoms as lactose intolerance when, often, the more appropriate term to use is cow milk sensitivity (CMS). Clinical and parental observation suggests that 30-50% of children experience cow milk sensitivity, where the cow milk is poorly digested and irritates the gastrointestinal tract.

Cow milk sensitivity (CMS) is associated with a local reaction in the gut, as well as a triggered immune response and can include mid to moderate symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal colic, diarrhea, constipation, recurrent ear infection, mucous congestion, wheezing, and eczema. Because of its greater digestive ease, goat milk may be a solution for children with cow milk sensitivity (CMS).

Lactose intolerance should also not be confused with cow milk protein allergy (CMPA). Cow milk protein allergy is an allergic reaction to the protein components in milk, not the sugar. Individuals with cow milk protein allergy (CMPA) usually must avoid all milk products, including goat milk.


KABRITA USA's mission is to provide the highest standard of goat milk nourishment to children, while inspiring parents and health care professionals with expert nutrition education.

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