Lactose Intolerance

Being lactose intolerant doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up your favorite dairy foods and the health benefits that come with them.

Lactose Intolerance Treatment, Management & Tips

Good news — lactose intolerance is manageable so you likely won’t need to miss out on the essential nutrients found in real milk, cheese, and yogurt. Plus, the flavor and enjoyment dairy products can add to your favorite beverages and meals.

Remember, products that identify as plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk (almond, oat, rice, etc. milks) do not contain the same nutrient package as cow’s milk. These beverages are not comparable swaps when it comes to nutrition.

There are plenty of dairy products that are naturally low in lactose or that are lactose-free.

These include: 

  • Lactose-free milk – Some dairy products are pre-treated with lactase to break down the sugar in the product. This allows for comfortable consumption by those with lactose intolerance. Lactose-free cow’s milk contains the same 13 essential nutrients found in regular dairy milk. This is not the case for products that identify as plant-based alternatives.
  • Hard cheeses – This includes cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, and swiss. When cheese is made, the curd is separated from the whey (where most of the lactose is found). The minimal lactose left in the curd breaks down considerably as the cheese ages.
  • Yogurt – Though some yogurt may have moderate levels of lactose, many individuals with lactose intolerance are able to tolerate it. The live active cultures found in yogurt help break down some of the lactose, making it easier to digest.
  • Heavy cream – Don’t worry about a splash of heavy cream in your morning coffee or stirred into your tomato cream sauce. This high-fat dairy product is low in lactose.
  • Butter – This dairy product contains extremely low levels of lactose. Feel free to spread it on your morning toast!

In addition, research suggests that consuming lactose with meals (especially those which contain healthy fats) helps to slow entry of lactose into the small intestine over time. This can cause fewer symptoms.   

Related FAQs

How do I know if I'm lactose intolerant?

Being lactose intolerant means you have a hard time digesting the sugar (called lactose) naturally found in milk. Symptoms may include stomachaches, bloating, or gassiness, but these symptoms can have many different causes and could also be signs of other digestive conditions. Visit your doctor to be properly tested for lactose intolerance.

Am I allergic to milk and other dairy foods?

Being lactose intolerant is not the same as having a milk allergy. A milk allergy is caused by a reaction to the protein in milk. This is different from lactose intolerance, which occurs when your body has a hard time digesting the natural sugar (lactose) in milk. Learn more about the important differences here.

Can children be lactose intolerant?

Lactose intolerance is less common in young children. If you think your child is lactose intolerant, talk to your family doctor, pediatrician or dietitian before limiting their dairy intake. Milk and dairy foods provide essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and protein that are vital for growing bodies.

I drank milk when I was younger. Why am I more sensitive now?

Your body makes an enzyme called lactase to help digest the lactose in milk. As an adult, your body may be making less of this enzyme then when you were younger.

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