Contrary to what most people think, many of those who are lactose intolerant can have some milk and milk products. Some of the ways to decrease discomfort are to consume small amounts of milk products at meals and to combine milk with other foods.
Ideas for Action:
The main idea is to allow only a small amount of lactose to empty from the stomach into the small intestine at a time. This can be done in several ways:
- Eat a small amount of lactose-containing food at a time.
- Eat foods with little lactose.
- Try yogurt. Many lactose intolerant people can eat yogurt without experiencing symptoms. Yogurt is as effective in reducing symptoms as milk pre-treated with lactase. Although yogurt contains as much lactose as milk, the bacteria in yogurt digest the lactose both during fermentation and after eating the yogurt. Fermentation decreases yogurt lactose content by approximately 25-50% (1).
- Delay stomach emptying. Sugar and fat delay stomach emptying and intestinal transit time, consequently allowing more contact time between lactase and lactose (1). Delayed stomach emptying also allows absorption of small amounts of lactose at a time.
People who are lactose intolerant do not produce enough lactase, the enzyme required to digest the milk sugar, lactose. Undigested lactose remaining in the small intestine is acted upon by the natural intestinal bacteria. This may result in bloating, diarrhea, gas and abdominal cramping.
Lactose intolerant people should experiment to determine their level of tolerance to milk and milk products. Most lactose intolerant people can digest small amounts of lactose (2). Start by consuming small portions of milk and milk products and gradually increase the amounts until you reach your personal tolerance level.
(1) World J Gastroenterol, Vol. 12, No. 2, 187-191 (2006)
(2) Suchy FJ, Brannon PM, Carpenter TO, Fernandez JR, Gilsanz V, Gould JB, Hall K, Hui SL, Lupton J, Mennella J, Miller NJ, Osganian SK, Sellmeyer DE, Wolf MA. NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement: Lactose Intolerance and Health. NIH Consens State Sci Statements. 2010 Feb 22-24; 27(2): 1-27.