The Consumer Education Project of Milk SA

How is lactose intolerance managed?

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Dairy need not be completely avoided if you are lactose intolerant. Most people diagnosed with lactose intolerance can consume small amounts of dairy, depending on their type and level of tolerance. Small amounts of full-cream milk, milk mixed with food, and fermented products such as yoghurt, amasi and cheese are normally well tolerated. Consult a dietitian for more advice.

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Patients with lactose intolerance generally do not have to avoid milk-based foods completely, but should rather just limit their intake to individual tolerance levels. In fact, intake of some lactose is advised to promote tolerance.

Depending on the type and level of tolerance, most people diagnosed with lactose intolerance can consume up to 12 g in a single dose. A 250 ml glass of milk contains approximately 12 g lactose, while the amount in yoghurt and cheese is considerably less (7.3 g in 200 ml plain full-cream yoghurt and 0.1 g in 40 g of Cheddar cheese). Full-cream milk is better tolerated than low-fat or fat-free milk and by mixing milk with other foods you can improve your digestion of lactose. Lactase supplements (the enzyme that digests lactose) are also available from pharmacies and health stores and can assist with lactose digestion if taken at the correct time. In addition, there are a number of lactose-free products available commercially.

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