Lactose intolerance is a common digestive issue. It affects about 75% of the world’s population. Interestingly, it is most common in Asia and South America, but much less common in Western areas such as North America, Europe, and Australia. People with lactose intolerance don’t have the enzyme called lactase to break down lactose, the primary sugar in milk. Without enough lactase enzyme, lactose may pass through your gut undigested and trigger unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. (1)
In this article, we are going to highlight 6 dairy food to eat if you have lactose intolerance.
1. Aged Hard Cheese
Cheese producers make cheese by adding bacteria or acid to the milk and then separate the whey from it. In this process, much of the lactose in milk removes. The quantity of lactose in cheese, however, may differ, and cheeses with the lower quantities are the ones with the longest age because the bacteria in cheese can break down some remaining lactose. As long as the cheese gets older, the bacteria break down more lactose. This means that aged hard cheeses often have very low lactose content. (4, 5, 6)
As the cheese ages, the bacteria break down more lactose. As a result, aged hard cheeses usually have very low lactose content.
Butter is made by separating the fat globules from the buttermilk by churning milk. They sometimes add salt and food colorings to butter. The final product is about 80% fat, as the fluid portion of milk containing all the lactose is removed during processing. This means that butter’s lactose content is low. Even if you have lactose intolerance, this low quantity is unlikely to cause issues. (7, 8)
They eliminate most of the lactose during making of butter. Even if you are lactose intolerant, a small amount is unlikely to create problems.
3. Heavy Cream
To produce heavy cream, skim off the fatty liquid rising to the top of the milk. Depending on the fat-to-milk ratio in the product. Different creams may have different quantities of fat. Heavy cream is a high-fat product containing 37% fat. This is greater than other creams such as half and a half or light cream. It also includes no sugar, meaning it has a small lactose content. Thus, you should not have any issues with heavy cream in your coffee or dessert if you are lactose intolerant. (9)
Heavy cream is a high-fat product that contains roughly 37% fat and includes nearly no sugar, meaning it has a small lactose content.
Kefir is made by adding kefir grains to milk. The kefir grains, just like yogurt, contain live bacteria that help break down lactose in milk. This implies that if you consume it in moderate quantity, it may not affect you if you have lactose intolerance. Indeed, one study discovered that fermented dairy products such as yogurt or kefir might decrease intolerance symptoms by 54–71% compared to milk alone. (10, 11)
Fermented dairy products, such as yoghurt or kefir, have been shown to reduce intolerance symptoms by 54–71%.
5. Greek Yogurt
People with lactose intolerance can digest yogurt better than milk because most yogurts have live bacteria that can help break down lactose. Study shows that people with lactose intolerance digested 66% more lactose when they consumed yogurt. The yogurt also triggered fewer symptoms, with only 20% of of participants reported digestive problems after consuming the yogurt, compared to 80% after drinking the milk. Looking for yogurts that are probiotic is best, meaning they contain live bacteria. Therefore, Greek yogurt is the best option. (12, 13, 14, 15, 16)
After eating yoghurt, people with lactose intolerance digested 66% more lactose. The yoghurt caused fewer digestive problems only in 20% of people.
6. Protein Powder
For those who are lactose intolerant, choosing a protein powder can be difficult. This is because of protein powders made from whey, which is the lactose-containing fluid component of milk. Whey protein is a common option for athletes, those seeking build lean muscle. However, this depends on the process, and the quantity of lactose in whey protein may differ. For example, whey protein concentrate contains 79–80% protein and a small quantity of lactose. Similarly, whey protein isolate contains about 90% of protein and less lactose than the whey concentrate.
Whey protein hydrolysate contains lactose comparable to concentrate type, but some proteins in hydrolysate are slowly digested. However, the whey protein isolate form, which includes the smallest concentrations lactose, is the best choice for lactose-sensitive people. (17)
Lactose content can differ between products, and most people have to try each to see which brand of protein powder works best for them.
Are lactose in dairy products alone?
No. It’s actually in many processed foods. Some bread contains lactose, processed breakfast cereals, vegetables, soups, margarine, lunch meats, pancake, cookies, and powdered coffee creamers. Over 20% of prescription medicines and about 6% of over-the-counter medicines contain lactose, although these products only affect people with serious lactose intolerance. Ask your pharmacist if you take medicines that contain lactose.
How do I know if I am lactose intolerant?
If you are lactose intolerant, you might feel stomach pain, bloating, and gas right after consuming milk or dairy products. Note that it is difficult to diagnose your own lactose intolerance symptoms. You may mistake your symptoms with other gastrointestinal disease, such as irritable bowel syndrome. It is best to talk to your doctor if you think you have digestive issues.
Avoiding all dairy products is not good for people with lactose intolerance. In reality, some dairy products are low in lactose and small quantities of lactose should not cause you any digestive problems.
Suggested article: Health benefits of camel milk and its side effects
- The Interrelationships between Lactose Intolerance and the Modern Dairy Industry: Global Perspectives in Evolutional and Historical Backgrounds. Nutrients. 2015.
- The Basics of Cheesemaking. Microbiol Spectr. 2013.
- Lactose intolerance: diagnosis, genetic, and clinical factors. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2012.
- Kefir: a multifaceted fermented dairy product. Probiotics Antimicrob Proteins. 2014.
- Kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose maldigestion. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003.
- Yogurt–an autodigesting source of lactose. N Engl J Med. 1984.
- Lactose digestion from yogurt: mechanism and relevance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014.
- Protein and protein hydrolysates in sports nutrition. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2007.