Leading Health Authorities Agree: Dairy First for Lactose Intolerance

Some of the most common dairy questions involve confusion surrounding lactose intolerance, and how to ensure patients and clients can enjoy the delicious taste and nutrition benefits from the recommended three servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods every day.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose which is a natural sugar in dairy products. People with lactose intolerance may experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas and stomach cramps when they ingest dairy. This can be the result of the person not having enough lactase to digest the lactose or not being able to absorb the lactose in the body. Contrary to some beliefs, lactose intolerance is not an allergy to lactose or dairy. It simply means that you are not able to break down or absorb lactose. If you suspect that you may be lactose intolerant, a visit to the doctor may be all that is needed to confirm your suspicions. There are several tests that a doctor can do to check for lactose intolerance with the two most common being lactose tolerance blood test and hydrogen breath test. These tests check your body’s reaction after consuming dairy and the results are measured against a normal reaction to dairy consumption.

How to Enjoy Dairy if you are Lactose Intolerant

It’s important to remember that many people with lactose intolerance may be open to dairy solutions as long as they can avoid the discomfort associated with consuming them. Some easy-to-remember strategies for incorporating low-fat and fat-free dairy foods into the diets of those who are lactose intolerant are:

Lactose Intolerance
  • Try It. Try lactose-free milk and milk products. They are real milk products, just without the lactose, and provide the same great nutrients as regular dairy products.
  • Sip It. Start with a small amount of milk daily and increase slowly over several days or weeks to increase tolerance.
  • Stir It. Mix milk with other foods, such as smoothies, soups or sauces – or pair it with meals. This helps give your body more time to digest it.
  • Slice It. Top sandwiches or crackers with natural cheeses such as Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and Swiss. These cheeses are low in lactose.
  • Shred It. Shred your favorite natural cheese onto soups, pastas and salads. It’s an easy way to incorporate a serving of dairy that is low in lactose.
  • Spoon It. Enjoy easy-to-digest yogurt. The live and active cultures in yogurt help to digest lactose.

It’s important to know you can eat dairy even if you are lactose intolerant. Dairy is a great source of nutrients and should be enjoyed. Adding dairy to other foods will help in digestion and consuming small amounts of dairy over time will help build up a tolerance. Dairy is the primary source of calcium, a necessary nutrient for bone health, in most American diets. Dairy also contains potassium for healthy blood pressure and vitamin D for balancing out phosphorus levels and maintaining bone health.