Oct 26, 2018 | Uncategorized

Can Pregnancy Reverse Lactose Intolerance?

After my post on eating for two, I was asked whether it is possible for pregnancy to cause a reversal of lactose intolerance (LI). I was intrigued by the question, and decided to do some research on the subject.

First, what is LI? Is it different than a milk allergy?

LI is the inability of the body to breakdown lactose, the naturally occurring sugar found in milk and many dairy products. People with LI don’t have enough lactase, which is the enzyme that breaks down the lactose. Some people have a secondary LI, meaning it is caused by another disease or by a drug.

When lactose isn’t broken down properly, it causes a host of unpleasant symptoms. Abdominal bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting are all common, and can show up anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming dairy. Like many other conditions, LI presents across a spectrum – for some people it’s annoying or embarrassing, while for others it is debilitating.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are Lactaid(R) products – real milk or ice cream with the lactose removed – and Lactaid(R) pills – a chewable form of lactase. Also, not all dairy causes LI symptoms. Many hard or aged cheeses are tolerated well. In addition, goat’s milk and goat’s milk products are often tolerated better than cow’s milk.

A milk allergy, on the other hand, is a response to the casein or whey, the proteins in milk. When the body sees them, an actual immune system response follows. The symptoms may look similar to lactose intolerance, and can also include anaphylactic shock. Again, the severity of these symptoms falls somewhere along a spectrum from not too bad to coma.

What happens during pregnancy?

Many women find themselves suddenly lactose intolerant when they get pregnant, which is a major bummer and can be difficult to adjust to, with all of the other changes that occur during pregnancy. For some, it only lasts during their pregnancy. For others, it stays with them – or with their baby – forever.

Food tolerances and food sensitivity changes make sense. For one, as pregnancy goes on, the digestive system gets pushed around and squished. Trust me when I say that the digestive tract does not work like it did pre-pregnancy. I’m still not sure my organs have returned to their right location! Hormones play a role, as well. And let’s not forget the change in our immune system – a good thing since mom’s body is growing a human that is 50% “other”. If mom’s immune system was working exactly as it did prior to pregnancy, her body would attack the fetus as an invader.

But there are a lucky few out there… According to a Medscape article on the subject, 44% of women who suffer from lactose intolerance find themselves able to tolerate dairy when pregnant! The references on Medscape didn’t lead to a specific study where I could corroborate the statement. However, I did find A LOT of anecdotal evidence on mom blogs and forums saying this had been their experience.

From what I was able to find – again, more anecdotal that backed by a research study – doctors believe this newfound tolerance might occur because the intestines slow down during pregnancy. If food has a longer transit time, it is more likely to be fully digested and properly absorbed. Additionally, there could be bacterial adaptation to lactose when pregnant, meaning that the bacteria in your gut adapt to being able to break down lactose.

In summary, anecdotal evidence indicates that some women can suddenly be lactose tolerant during pregnancy. If it happens to you, consider yourself lucky, but don’t assume it will last forever. If you are less lucky, and find yourself with a new-found sensitivity or intolerance, I’d love to talk with you about navigating this transitional time. You can contact me with questions or set-up an appointment.

Want to learn more about pregnancy or prenatal nutrition?
Schedule your free discovery call today!


  1. Sarah Garcia

    I have been intrigued by the occurrence of pregnancy reversing lactose intolerance for 15 years. I have had three pregnancies and my lifetime long lactose intolerance was none existent. I devoured as much gourmet Mac and cheese, milkshakes, and cheeseburgers as any pregnant mother would desire. It even lasted into my breastfeeding months. I hope to learn more in the future about this.

  2. Telena

    I’m 8 months post pregnancy and finding I can handle dairy well. I was lactose intolerant before. I haven’t been brave enough yet to try everything but I ate a bunch of Mac and cheese without a lactaid pill! I had pizza (double cheese) which has made me very sick in the past, I took one lactaid pill (as a precaution) and was fine. The body is amazing. Now I just wonder if it will last and how far I can take it? I’m still breastfeeding and wonder if this makes a difference too?

  3. Katie Goldberg

    Congrats on being able to tolerate dairy right now. It’s unclear how long it will last – so get it in while you can – but some women experience it permanently while others just during pregnancy.

  4. Crystal Burghdoff

    I was very lactose intolerant before I got pregnant for my son. I found during my pregnancy that dairy didn’t upset my stomach anymore. My son will be 2 in a couple weeks and I’m still able to tolerate dairy products quite well.

  5. Kayla

    Ive been lactose intolerant since 2008 and last year i just found out i have a milk allergy but can have other dairy. But when im pregnant i can have all the milk and dairy i want. Then after i go back to how i was before i got pregnant. I drink almond milk when im not pregnant. Its weird that i can have milk while im pregnant and it dont effect me. Im enjoying every minute of milk and ice cream that i couldn’t have before.


Motherhood doesn’t have to be so complicated. Schedule your free discovery call today!



I’m Katie Goldberg (AKA The Pregnancy Dietitian), mom of 2 little humans, health coach, and registered dietitian nutritionist. I can guide you through the research and best practices (and avoid all the B.S.) to help you confidently nourish your body and your baby during this unique season of life.

Get your Free guide!


Not all prenatals are equal and deciding which is best for you can be difficult.

Download my FREE guide to help simplify the process.


The Ultimate Guide to Prenatal Vitamins

The Ultimate Guide to Prenatal Vitamins

It’s probably not news to you that you should take a prenatal vitamin. Many OB/GYNs encourage taking one before you are pregnant, and it’s certainly addressed at the first appointment. But beyond “you should take one,” do you really know how to choose one? How do you...

Protein Needs During Pregnancy

Protein Needs During Pregnancy

Did you know that protein needs increase during pregnancy? Since many women experience some form of food aversions or nausea, getting in enough protein can feel a bit daunting. Let's talk about how much protein you really need, and how to make that happen when you're...

How Much Water Should You Drink During Pregnancy?

How Much Water Should You Drink During Pregnancy?

We've all heard that it's important to stay hydrated. But how much water should you drink during pregnancy? Does that 8 glasses a day rule still apply? And do other liquids count, or just water? Once again, something that has always felt pretty simple, is suddenly...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This