Lactose intolerance, also called lactase deficiency and hypolactasia, is the inability to digest lactose, sugar found in milk and to a lesser extent milk-derived dairy products. Lactose intolerance is caused by reduced or absent activity of lactase that prevents the splitting of lactose (lactase deficiency). When lactose moves through the large intestine (colon) without being properly digested, it can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as gas, belly pain, and bloating. Some people who have lactose intolerance cannot digest any milk products. Others can eat or drink small amounts of milk products or certain types of milk products without problems. Lactose intolerance is common in adults. It occurs more often in Native Americans and people of Asian, African, and South American descent than among people of European descent.

The amount of lactose an individual can tolerate varies from person to person.  Many people with lactose intolerance can tolerate some lactose-containing foods by adjusting the type, amount and timing of these foods.  Some patients may need to (or may choose to) limit or eliminate these foods completely. If you wish to include lactose-containing foods in your diet, the following suggestions given by UVA nutrition services may help the one to deal with the lactose intolerance problem. Always consult with your health expert  before making changes to your prescribed diet.


1. Add new foods one at a time; decrease the amount, or eliminate the food, if symptoms occur.

2. Most people with lactose intolerance do not need to avoid all dairy products, for example:

Cultured yogurt contains live cultures that naturally help digest lactose. Many people with lactose intolerance tolerate cultured yogurt well.  Check labels to see if a yogurt contains live cultures or hard cheese is low in lactose and is usually well tolerated

3. If you wish to drink milk, try taking small amounts (1/2 cup at a time). Many people can tolerate up to 2 cups of milk per day when taken in smaller servings spread out over the course of the day.

4. Foods that contain lactose may be better tolerated if they are eaten with a meal.

Foods made from certain dairy products (such as pudding, cream soups, cream or cheese  Sauces,  etc.)  also contain lactose.  The amount of lactose in a product will depend on the  amount of dairy products used. Other foods such as baked items, instant mixes, salad dressings , etc. may also contain lactose.  The following ingredients suggest a product contains lactose.

Butter, Caseinates, Cheese, Cream, Curds, Dry milk solids, Lactose, Milk, Milk by-products, Milk solids, Milk sugar, Non-fat dry milk powder, Skim milk solids, Whey, Yogurt

5. Lactose can also be found in medications:-

Check for lactose on the label, although it does not have to be listed; if you are very sensitive to lactose and have persistent symptoms, ask your pharmacist to help you.  Ask your doctor to prescribe a lactose-free alternative if one exists.

6. Specialty Products:-If you are not able to tolerate lactose-containing foods using the above suggestions, special products are available.  Keep in mind, not everyone with lactose intolerance needs special products; many people can tolerate regular dairy products by adjusting the type and amount consumed.

- 100% lactose reduced milk is available in the dairy section of most grocery stores.

- Available in nonfat, 1%, 2%, and whole milk varieties.

- Lactose reduced milk contains the same nutrition, including calcium and vitamin D as regular milk.

- Lactose reduced milk does cost a bit more than regular milk.

- Lactose reduced milk may taste sweeter than regular milk.

7. Lactase Enzyme Supplements

These products contain the enzyme lactase, which is needed for the digestion of lactose. Available in tablet or chewable form.

8.Other Products

Soy milk, rice milk and almond milk are lactose free.  If you plan to use these products as an alternative calcium and/or vitamin D source, read labels carefully and choose a brand which specifically states it contains these nutrients and in what amounts.

Calcium and Vitamin D

If you are on a low lactose diet, discuss your calcium and vitamin D intake with your physician or dietitian. Studies have shown that individuals with lactose intolerance often do not take in enough of these nutrients.  Inadequate calcium and vitamin D intake increases the risk of osteoporosis.  A dietitian can help you determine whether you are getting enough of these nutrients in your diet.


There is no known way to prevent lactose intolerance. However, one can lead a healthy and normal life by managing their daily diet routine and incorporating products that are lactose free, yet with healthy nutrients. The key is to have balance of all vital nutrients and implementing guidelines that are meant for lactose intolerance condition.