How to Stop Lactose Intolerance Pain

Strategies for reducing pain and preventing it from happening again

You can't stop lactose intolerance pain and other symptoms immediately. It can take as long as 48 hours for lactose to clear your system, which is necessary for you to feel better.

Over-the-counter medication can help painful gas, bloating, and diarrhea caused by the inability to digest large amounts of lactose, the major sugar found in milk and milk products. However, the best strategies for symptom relief are rooted in preventing episodes in the first place.

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This article goes over how to end the pain from lactose intolerance as fast as possible with medication or natural approaches. You'll also learn what you can do to prevent lactose intolerance symptoms and when to see a healthcare provider.

Quick Ways to End Lactose Intolerance Pain

There are both over-the-counter medications and natural remedies that can help ease the pain associated with lactose intolerance.

You may not feel 100% better after trying these strategies, but they may help make your symptoms more tolerable while you're waiting for the lactose to clear out of your body.


Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments that can help temper lactose intolerance pain and other symptoms include:

  • Gas-X (simethicone): Bacteria in the gut feed on lactose and make hydrogen, which causes gas and bloating. Simethicone can help reduce these symptoms, which might otherwise contribute to pain.
  • Imodium AD (loperamide): This medication can treat diarrhea caused by undigested lactose, which draws large amounts of water into the intestines from elsewhere in your body.
  • Imodium capsules (loperamide and simethicone) or Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) can help treat both diarrhea and gas/bloating.

Natural Remedies

There are also some non-medication strategies you can try. Natural ways to end lactose intolerance pain include:

Get moving: Taking an easy walk can help relax your abdominal muscles and stimulate your digestive system, which can help free any trapped gas.

Do some gentle stretching: You may find that doing some gentle stretching or restorative yoga poses like Happy Baby and Child's Pose help ease lactose intolerance pain.

Laying on your left side to sleep can also help, as it makes use of gravity to help things move through your GI tract.

Avoid irritating foods: While you’re waiting for the pain to get better, try to avoid other foods or drinks that can be irritating to your sensitive digestive tract.

Everyone has their own sensitivities, but common foods that can cause GI symptoms include:

  • High-fiber foods (e.g., breakfast cereals or bars, raw vegetables, and whole grains)
  • Gas-producing foods (e.g., artificial sweeteners, cruciferous vegetables, beans, and carbonated drinks)
  • Spicy foods (e.g., curry, peppers, wasabi, and sriracha)

Try self-massage: Doing a few minutes of abdominal self-massage may help get any trapped gas causing lactose intolerance pain moving through your intestines and out of your body.

  • Start by gently pressing on the upper right of your stomach in a circular motion.
  • Move down your abdomen to the corner of your pelvis.
  • Then move over to the left side.
  • Finally, work your way back up.

Get a lymphatic massage: Manual lymph drainage or lymphatic massage helps move lymph fluid that has built up in your tissues to move to your lymph nodes, where it can be drained. This can reduce swelling.

In alternative medicine, it's also thought that lymphatic massage helps improve the function of many body systems—including digestion.

When Dose Lactose Intolerance Pain Start?

Pain and other symptoms of lactose intolerance typically start between 30 minutes and two hours after you eat or drink products with lactose in them, such as milk, ice cream, or cheese.

How to Prevent Continued Lactose Intolerance Pain

Many people try using dietary supplements to prevent lactose intolerance pain, but there is mixed evidence on whether these products actually work.

Change Your Diet

It's common for people to avoid lactose-containing foods completely if they are trying to prevent lactose intolerance pain. However, this might not be necessary and can make it harder for you to get the calcium your body needs.

Some people with lactose intolerance just need to limit how much dairy they have. You'll need to engage in some trial and error to see what types of dairy you can tolerate in what amounts, if any.

To avoid lactose intolerance pain, try making these dietary changes to see if they help:

  • Drink less than one cup of milk at a time.
  • Eat milk and milk products with meals rather than on their own.
  • Choose reduced-lactose or lactose-free dairy products.
  • Have yogurt instead of milk: The lactose in yogurt gets broken down as it is being made, making it easier for your body to digest.
  • Try acidophilus milk: Acidophilus milk is made by adding probiotic bacteria called Lactobacillus acidophilus to cold milk. The idea is that the addition of these cultures helps with lactose digestion, though the research has not shown for sure that it really works.

Some suggest trying raw milk. However, because it is unpasteurized, it can contain bacteria that can lead to serious health concerns. The risks likely outweigh the benefits.

Watch Out for Hidden Sources of Lactose

If you've been avoiding dairy but are still having lactose intolerance pain, you might be getting triggered by hidden lactose.

Check all the foods you eat and medications you take to see if they contain lactose, You'd be surprised how many protein bars, processed meals, and pills have some lactose in them.

In addition to checking products for obvious ingredients like "butter," "milk," and "cream," look for other ingredients like "casein" and "whey."

Take Lactase Supplements

Tablets containing lactase can be taken before eating foods with lactose. For many people, lactase supplements are only needed when they eat or drink large amounts of lactose.

If one form of supplement does not work, it might be worth trying another. For example, some people find the tablet form works better for them than the chewable form.

Try Probiotics

Lactic acid bacteria in the intestines break lactose down into simpler sugars that can be absorbed by the colon. Certain probiotic supplements may help with this process. You can get them in capsule, tablet, or powder form at health food stores, grocery stores, drugstores, and online.

There are several types of lactic acid bacteria. The ones used most often for lactose intolerance pain include:

A study published in 2021 involved 55 people with lactose intolerance. They were divided into two groups. For one week, half were given yogurt containing acidophilus and Bifidobacterium sp. (another type of probiotic bacteria). The other half were given yogurt without the bacteria.

The results of the study suggested that the probiotics did help reduce lactose intolerance symptoms. These findings were similar to those from 15 other studies that researchers reviewed to see how different probiotics might help with lactose intolerance. They found positive effects for some of the bacteria, including acidophilus and Bifidobacterium sp.

However, other research has shown mixed results on probiotic use for lactose intolerance. An older systematic review in 2005 found variations in the seven studies that were included.

One study showed a big reduction in lactose intolerance symptoms, one showed mixed results, and five studies showed no benefit. The authors noted that each study used a different type of lactic acid bacteria.


Click Play to Learn All About Lactose Intolerance

This video has been medically reviewed by Chris Vincent, MD.

When to Worry About Lactose Intolerance Pain

If you have new symptoms that you think might be caused by lactose intolerance, talk with your healthcare provider. For example, see your provider if you have:

  • A change in your bowel habits
  • Constipation, diarrhea, or gas that is getting worse
  • Heartburn that keeps you from sleeping
  • Other symptoms that are worrying you

Lactose intolerance can also be caused by medications or by another health condition that damages cells that line the intestines such as:

When to Get Emergency Treatment

Seek immediate medical help if you have any of these serious digestive symptoms:

  • Sudden or severe stomach pain
  • Vomiting up blood or seeing dark specks in your vomit
  • Black or bloody stools
  • Severe or persistent constipation
  • Inability to keep anything down


OTC products, probiotic supplements, and natural remedies like having a walk after meals are quick ways to end lactose intolerance pain. If you find that these strategies are not helping or your symptoms are getting worse, talk to your provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why does lactose intolerance happen?

    Lactose intolerance is caused by a shortage of lactase, an enzyme produced by the cells lining the small intestine. Lactase breaks lactose down into simpler forms of sugar, like glucose, so it can be absorbed and used by the body.

  • How common is lactose intolerance?

    About 30 million adults in the U.S. experience lactose intolerance by the time they reach the age of 20.

  • Can lactose intolerance increase as you age?

    Yes, people tend to start showing signs of lactose intolerance at a young age, and the symptoms get worse with age. You may also notice lactose intolerance at an older age when you did not have this issue before. That's due to the normal decrease in lactase enzyme that occurs with age.

  • Can you grow out of lactose intolerance?

    Infants have the highest levels of lactase, which helps them digest breast milk. In about 70% of the world's population, a genetic trait causes lactase levels to start going down after babies are weaned. The drop is irreversible and most lactase activity is lost by adulthood.

    Even though most people experience the drop, they don't all have symptoms of intolerance after eating or drinking normal amounts of lactose. It seems to depend on how much "good" bacteria, called lactic acid bacteria, people have that can break down lactose.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.