Lactose intolerance does not mean dairy avoidance.


Lactose is the sugar naturally found in milk and many milk products. In order to digest lactose, the body needs lactase, an enzyme that is made by the body. Some people do not make enough lactase to break down lactose (milk sugar), so they may experience physical symptoms when consuming foods that contain lactose. This is often referred to as lactose intolerance.

The good news is those that are lactose intolerant or showing symptoms of lactose intolerance don’t have to miss out on the great taste and health benefits of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods!  Many health authorities agree that milk and other dairy foods are an important and practical source of key nutrients, for all people – including those who are lactose intolerant.  According to an expert panel organized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), eliminating dairy foods may not only be unnecessary to manage lactose intolerance, but could also lead to nutrient deficiencies that could result in negative health effects.

Different people can handle different amounts of lactose, and there’s a solution to meet most needs in the dairy aisle – from lactose-free milk to dairy foods that are typically easier to digest.  Whether it’s a cold glass of milk, creamy yogurt or flavorful cheese, dairy foods taste great and offer a powerful nutritional punch that you don’t want to miss!  Here are some tips to help those with lactose intolerance continue to enjoy dairy:

Sip it:

Start with a small amount of milk daily and increase slowly over several days or weeks to find the amount that works with your tolerance.

Try it:

Opt for lactose-free milk and milk products, like Lactaid. These real milk products have lower amounts of or zero lactose and provide the same nutrients as regular dairy foods. They also taste great!

Stir it:

Mix milk with other food, such as soup or cereal; blend with fruit; or drink with meals. Solid foods help slow digestion and allow the body more time to digest lactose.

Slice it:

Top sandwiches or crackers with natural cheese such as Cheddar, Colby, Queso Blanco, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and Swiss. These cheeses contain <0.1 grams of lactose per serving.

Spoon it:

Enjoy yogurt. Traditional yogurt and Greek-style yogurt that contain live and active cultures help to digest lactose.

Here you will find handouts and resources with more information about lactose intolerance. You can also check out National Dairy Council’s Lactose Intolerance Facts for more information and materials.