Are you suffering from lactose intolerance? Here's advice to enjoy dairy despite being lactose intolerant

By Drum Digital
03 July 2017

The Consumer Education Project of Milk SA explains lactose intolerance – what it is, why some people suffer from it and how to avoid it while still enjoying the goodness of milk

The Consumer Education Project of Milk SA gives some tips on how to enjoy dairy, even if you are lactose intolerant.

Lactose intolerance isn’t a milk allergy, it’s a gastrointestinal disturbance that happens after consuming more lactose than the body can handle. It’s merely the inability to digest the sugar naturally found in milk and milk products called lactose.

Lactose consists of two sugar components: glucose and galactose. During normal digestion the body produces an enzyme called lactase to separate these two sugar components so they can be absorbed into the blood. If the body doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase, the two sugar units can’t be separated. The milk sugar then starts to ferment, which can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, gas, loose stools and stomach pain.

Most people who are lactose intolerant can tolerate up to 12 g of lactose in a single dose and experience few or no symptoms. A cup of milk (250 ml) typically contains 12 g of lactose. Dairy foods such as milk, maas, yoghurt and cheese provide important nutrients such as protein, calcium and potassium. Everyone – young and old – needs these nutrients for good nutrition.

Lactose intolerance shouldn’t prevent you from having a healthy, balanced diet including milk and dairy products. Here’s how you can tolerate lactose better:

* Consume small amounts of milk and dairy at a time and space your intake throughout the day. Full-cream milk is tolerated better than low-fat or fat-free milk.

* Use milk and dairy foods combined with another food. For example, have milk with cereal or pap, stir plain yogurt into soup or have cheese on bread. Eating lactose-containing foods such as milk and other dairy products with other types of food slows the digestion of lactose and helps ease possible discomfort.

* Cheeses such as Cheddar, Gouda and Mozzarella contain very little lactose (less than 1 g lactose in a portion of 40 g) and are generally tolerated well.

* In fermented dairy products such as yoghurt and amasi some of the lactose is already broken down. As the live cultures in fermented dairy also improve lactose digestion, yoghurt and amasi are ideal choices if you are lactose intolerant.

* You can also try lactose-free dairy products.

Dairy products help to build strong bones and teeth and contribute to good overall health. So don’t miss out – benefit from the nutrients in dairy even if you’re lactose intolerant.

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