My 2-month old daughter has a cow's milk intolerance, so my wife has stopped consuming dairy. Ideally she'll be breastfeeding until 12+ months, so if it persists it could be a year before she has dairy again.

We have a friend who was dairy free with her son, and since she stopped breastfeeding and could consume dairy again she's had trouble with dairy products.

Is there any way to maintain lactase production while going dairy free, without having to consume dairy? Or a proven way to restore lactase production back to original levels when she does start consuming dairy?

  • If my response answers the question, please mark the question as answered. If you have additional concerns or questions, please leave a comment and I will be happy to try to address them.
    – Atl LED
    Sep 21 '15 at 18:13

First, let me highly commend your wife. The WHO recommendation for breastfeeding up to 2yr is not for show. It really can help prevent a whole slew of problems.

Unfortunately, no there are no ways to maintain lactase production in a prolonged lactose free diet. She may get extremely luckily and maintain the bacteria that are needed on her own, but she should not attempt to reintroduce dairy into her diet without the go-ahead from your pediatrician (assuming she's still breastfeeding).

In regards to the second question, can lactase production be regained, my answer is not yet but soon. The textbook and US-FDA approved methods for dealing with lactose intolerance are mostly to avoid dairy and take lactase supplements or tilactase (which will not increase lactase production on their own).

There is, however, a drug currently being studied called RP-G28 (I'm sure they will come up with a nice trade name if it makes it to market). The results were promising. Further, there have also been some promising studies with probiotics, in particular Lactobacillus reuteri, as a possible solution. It has proven difficult to "re-seed" the gut with good probiotics that are swallowed, but the solution may lie with going the other direction.

As a small warning, you have to be very careful when you are shopping for probiotics. It is unfortanitely not well regulated, and the way in which the bacteria are packaged can greatly effect if they are useful or not. For the most part you are going to want live cultures, and if they are reduced to a pill form, you want them lyophilized not heat treated or dehydrated. Many times it can be difficult to get this information from the manufacturer, so please be very careful when shopping. It may be best to ask a medical professional what is available in your markets (including online markets if you have access).

  • +1. I'd tack another +1 for the probiotic info if I could. Sep 21 '15 at 1:52
  • Awesome answer, thank you. For the probiotics, would it be best to take those throughout her time breastfeeding as a maintenance program, rather than once she's done breastfeeding to try to catch up? And (nearly completely) unrelated - for the drug you mentioned, is there any good way to track its progress to market? Obviously it's just in early studies now - other than catching a news tidbit in 3 years, how would I know that it is available?
    – Drew
    Sep 21 '15 at 19:18
  • @Drew again, it's always best to check with your pediatrician on such matters, but simply as a matter of cost, I would wait until she's finished. Real useful probiotics are not inexpensive. As far as tracking a drug to market, you can always check with a pharmaceutical company, they don't tend to keep it a secret.
    – Atl LED
    Sep 22 '15 at 12:04

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