Got your attention? Thought so. There’s a terribly unfortunate belief that a lactose intolerance diagnosis means cutting out all dairy, which means giving up on perhaps the greatest gift of the dietary gods, cheese.

Let us stop you right there.

First of all, any major dietary change such as removing a major food group is significant. When you cut out dairy you cut out all the benefits it can bring, including calcium, vitamin A, potassium and protein.

Dairy is also a source of the B12. House Call Doctor has written about the importance of this vitamin previously.

Please, if you’re considering making a major change to your diet, you should do so under the guidance of your doctor and, ideally, as part of a diagnostic process. Do you really want to give up the cheese on your pizza and the milk in your coffee if you don’t have to?

The advice from Nutrition Australia is very simple: “People with lactose maldigestion do not need to eliminate dairy foods from their diet.”

“Many dairy foods do not contain large amounts of lactose.”

Remember this:

  • When we say “lactose intolerance” we are talking about someone being unable to digest the lactose carbohydrate in some dairy products. If you look at the nutritional panel you will usually see a few grams under carbohydrates. Lactose, like glucose and fructose, is a sugar and your body needs to break it down in the small intestine
  • To break it down, your body uses the lactase enzyme found in the small intestine. If you don’t have lactase, the lactose isn’t broken down and passes through to the colon where it can have a bloaty party with the bacteria there to create gas. This might be starting to sound familiar …
  • Some foods marketed as “lactose free” really just have the lactase added. Check the ingredients list, it’ll be there
  • Some foods that we assume aren’t safe for people diagnosed with lactose maldigestion (not enough lactase) really don’t contain enough lactose to set off the gas and bloat symptoms. This time, it really is about moderation.


Tell me how I can eat cheese and not feel sick

We’ll give you more than cheese, friends!

“Most cheeses contain virtually no lactose and are usually well tolerated. Yoghurt is also generally well digested as it contains bacteria that ferment (or consume) the lactose,” according to Nutrition Australia.

“Research has shown that the majority of people with low lactase enzyme levels can consume at least one cup of milk (about 12 grams of lactose) a day.”

The amount of lactose in dairy foods include:

  • Regular milk, 250 millilitres: 15.8 grams lactose
  • Cheddar cheese, 40g: 0.04g lactose
  • Parmesan cheese, 40g: No lactose
  • Brie, 40g: 0.04g lactose
  • Ricotta cheese, 20g: 0.4g lactose
  • Cream cheese, 20g: 0.6g lactose.

The main message is that it’s never a good idea to arbitrarily cut something out of your diet completely. Do some research, consult your doctors and get a good understanding of what your symptoms could mean – all the possibilities.

If you are diagnosed with lactose maldigestion, it doesn’t mean a cheese-less existence, it just means being more careful with the variety and amount you consume.