Lactose intolerance (LI) doesn’t have to mean dairy avoidance. Milk and milk products are an important source of key nutrients – such as calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D – for all people, and can be for those who are lactose intolerant, or cannot easily digest lactose, the sugar found naturally in milk. Health and nutrition experts agree that it’s difficult to get enough of these key nutrients without dairy in your diet.
What is Lactose Intolerance?
LI is an individualized condition characterized by someone’s inability to easily digest lactose (typically leading to upset stomach, gas or diarrhea). It is not an allergy. The amount of lactose one can tolerate without having symptoms is different from person to person.
Avoid self-diagnosis of lactose intolerance. Talk to your doctor about your concerns to rule out other causes of your symptoms.
Prevalence of LI may be far lower than previously estimated, according to a 2009 study in Nutrition Today: Scientific Summary: Prevalence of Self-reported Lactose Intolerance in a Multi-ethnic Sample of Adults. This summary reports that lactose malabsorption is not always associated with LI; studies have demonstrated that some people with reduced digestion of lactose will not experience LI.
Lactose Intolerance Strategies
A few simple strategies include:
- Drinking small amounts of milk at meals to give your body more time to digest the lactose
- Drinking lactose-free milk, which is real milk without lactose
- Eating yogurt with live and active cultures
- Enjoying cheeses such as Cheddar, Swiss and Colby, which are naturally low in lactose.
- Each dairy product has a different amount of lactose, see the table in Fall In Love with Dairy Again for lactose amounts in popular dairy products.
There are a variety of lactose-reduced and lactose-free dairy products available today. Lactose-reduced and lactose-free dairy foods provide all the nutritional benefits found in traditional dairy products.
Click for more tips and suggestions on Enjoying Dairy Foods Even with Lactose Intolerance.
- Western Dairy Association Lactose Intolerance Downloads
- Scientific Summary: Lactose Intolerance Shouldn’t Limit Dairy Consumption When Managed Appropriately
- American Academy of Pediatrics Lactose Intolerance Report, 2006
You can also join the #BeyondLI conversation on Twitter.
National Nutrition Month