Why You Don’t Have to Avoid Dairy If You’re Lactose Intolerant

Being lactose intolerant doesn’t mean you have to give up milk, yogurt, and cheese; learn 8 tips to help combat lactose intolerance.

Sanaz Majd, MD

8 Tips to Battle Lactose Intolerance

Instead of avoiding dairy products altogether, here are eight quick and dirty tips to help you consume your daily dairy intake despite suffering from the discomfort associated with lactose intolerance:

  1. Smaller doses:  Ingest your dairy in smaller doses at a time.  Most people with lactose intolerance are able to consume dairy to some extent.  I recommend finding out what your specific “threshold” of intake really is -- for instance, perhaps you can tolerate one glass of milk at a time, but no more.  Most people can handle one cup of yogurt or milk. It’s important that you don’t just simply “avoid” all dairy, and instead find out how much of dairy your body can take without turning you into a helium-filled balloon.

  2. Slowly increase your daily dose:  Research shows that those who gradually increase their daily dairy intake can overcome lactose intolerance.  The lactase protein in our bodies can gradually re-produce with time if there is enough exposure to lactose.  Start small and very gradually increase your intake through time.  But maintain a very consistent regimen--drink your milk each and every day, without skipping out.

  3. Take it with meals:  Consume your dairy with your meals, rather than on an empty stomach.  The food can help “cushion” your intestines and diminish your discomfort. 

  4. Chug it with sugar or fat:  Drinking flavored milk or milk with a higher fat content is better tolerated (as long as your doctor gives the okay) for some people, due to the higher sugar and fat component that accompanies the lactose.

  5. Consume food with less lactose:  Aged cheese and yogurt tend to have less lactose than milk, so supplement your diet with more of these foods to get your daily dairy doses.

  6. Try lactose-free milk:  Most supermarkets carry a lactose-free brand of milk and soy milk, which are good alternatives to regular milk. 

  7. Try lactase supplements:  Lactase enzymes can be purchased over the counter and taken with your dairy in order to substitute the enzyme that your body naturally lacks.  These are usually taken as one or two tablets with the first bite/sip of your dairy.

  8. Try probiotics:  Although scientifically unproven, probiotics and yogurt with live cultures, such as Lactobacillus, may help to improve the abdominal discomfort and symptoms that are associated with lactose digestion.

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

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Little Girl with Milk image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd, a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. She sees everything from pediatrics to geriatrics, but her special interests are women's health and patient education. She also loves to teach, and has been doing so since her college days.

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