Lactose Intolerance

by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center

Lactose intolerance means that you have trouble digesting foods with lactose in them. Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk and foods made with milk. Between 30 million and 50 million Americans are lactose-intolerant.

For most people, lactose intolerance does not require treatment. Instead, you may want to avoid foods that have lactose. Other than dairy products, lactose is sometimes added to prepared foods such as breads, cereals, frozen dinners, instant potatoes, soups and breakfast drinks. You can also find lactose in lunchmeats, margarines, cake, cookie, pancake and biscuit mixes, powdered coffee creamers and salad dressings.

Taking a lactase tablet just before eating foods with lactose can also be helpful. The tablet will give your body the lactase it is missing. You can also choose lactose-free dairy products.

Remember to check the Nutrition Facts label on products you buy to see if they have lactose, milk, or milk byproducts, which may also be listed as whey, curds, or nonfat dry milk powder.


If you have lactose intolerance, your body cannot digest lactose. Most people are born with the ability to digest lactose, but up to 75 percent of people lose the ability, as they grow older.

Lactose intolerance can causes symptoms such as stomach cramps and diarrhea after you eat foods with lactose. Other symptoms may be nausea and stomach cramps. Although it is uncomfortable, the condition is not medically serious. Symptoms of lactose intolerance usually begin within 30 minutes to 2 hours after you eat or drink foods with lactose.

Dairy sensitivities may also lead to chronic symptoms, including headaches, bloating, fatigue, skin problems, and gas. They also increase inflammation in your body and may lead to leaky gut syndrome, digestive troubles, autoimmune conditions, and other chronic health problems.

Lactose intolerance and a milk allergy are two different issues. Lactose intolerance is a problem with the digestive system. It causes uncomfortable symptoms but is not life threatening.

A milk allergy is caused by a problem with your body’s immune system. Milk allergies are more common in children younger than three years old. Symptoms can range from mild (rashes or itching) to severe (trouble breathing or wheezing). A life-threatening reaction caused by an allergy is anaphylaxis and it is a medical emergency.

If you cannot tolerate any amount of milk or milk products, you should find other ways to get enough calcium and vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D are needed for healthy bones and teeth and essential functions of the body like a steady heartbeat. Alternatively, you can try lactose-free dairy products.

Non-Dairy Alternatives

If you cannot tolerate dairy at all here are some great alternatives to try; coconut, hemp, almond, cashew, and flax milk are great plant based options. Though be mindful if you have a nut allergy.

Coconut milk comes from the coconut’s white flesh. To produce thick coconut milk, manufacturers extract the liquid of the grated flesh of mature coconuts by squeezing them with cheesecloth. To create thin coconut milk, they use the flesh inside the cheesecloth and mix it with water. Thick coconut milk is fantastic for coconut rice, rice pudding, and baked goods. It is also higher in healthy fats. Thinner coconut milk, on the other hand, is perfect for smoothies, shakes, and as a plain milky drink. Coconut is rich in healthy fats. It is also a fantastic source of magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron and offers anti-inflammatory and antibiotic benefits

Hemp milk has an earthy and nutty flavor. It is made of hemp seeds and water. You can even make it yourself by blending hemp seeds with water at a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio depending on the consistency you prefer. You may want to add stevia for sweetness. Hemp milk is a source of healthy fats, protein, calcium, and iron.

Almond milk is also a popular alternative. It has a creamy texture, which can remind you of regular dairy. It also offers a nutty flavor. You may also make your own almond milk at home. Blend one part raw, soaked almond with two parts of water, then strain to remove any solids for creamy, homemade almond milk. It is low in calories and much lower in carbs than cow’s milk. It is rich in magnesium, riboflavin and thiamin. 

Cashew milk is getting increasingly popular. You may also make your own. Just like with almond milk, blend one part raw, soaked cashews with two parts of water, then strain to remove any solids. It is a great source of healthy fats, protein, magnesium, potassium, and iron.

Flax milk is another non-dairy alternative. You can buy it flavored or plain. It is rich in vitamins A, D, and B12. It is low in calories and sugar. Just like hemp milk, flax offers anti-inflammatory benefits with a good balance of omega fatty acids.

When shopping for plant based dairy, always read the labels as some brands use added sugar and other added ingredients. Try to buy organic, natural, without added sugar or many other additives or make your own.

Best Dairy If You Can Tolerate It or Are Taking Lactase Pills

Some people are simply unable to tolerate any dairy, while others are able to enjoy some healthier options.

Grass-fed raw milk is one of the healthy options out there if you can tolerate dairy. It is rich in protein, enzymes, calcium, vitamin K2 and E, beta-carotene, selenium and other nutritional benefits. It can be difficult to find raw milk in some states, but most stores do carry raw cheese.

If you cannot get grass-fed raw milk from your local farmer, grass-fed pasteurized milk is your next best option.  It is widely available. It offers a good omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio and is rich in conjugated linoleic acid to support metabolism and immune health.   

Many people who are sensitive to dairy may actually only have issues with cow’s milk. If you are one of these people, goat or sheep milk may be a fantastic option for you. They both offer a rich taste and are much easier to digest than cow’s milk. The form of the casein protein in goat and sheep’s milk is different and more easily digested than cow’s milk. 

They are rich in calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, and phosphorus. Most goats and sheep are pastured and are not treated with antibiotics and hormones like cows are. However, it is crucial that you make sure that you pick true pasture-raised options. Both of these are rich in healthy fats and clean protein, however, sheep dairy is a bit higher in both.

Camel milk has been a dietary staple in the Middle East and a medicinal drink in Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries. Recently, it has been gaining popularity in the West and is increasingly available in the US at health food stores, family farms, and online. It has a smooth and refreshing taste with plenty of health benefits. It is rich in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin B1, selenium, and zinc

Final Thoughts

Here are some great ways to manage and support your digestive symptoms other than relying on taking lactase pills on an ongoing basis.

•    Reduce the amount of dairy foods in your diet, or choose only lactose-reduced or lactose-free milks.

•    It is important to include calcium-rich foods in your diet if you avoid dairy products, as well as to get enough vitamin D (from the sun and/or supplements). Eat plenty of foods high in calcium, such as broccoli, leafy greens, beans, salmon, sardines and almonds. Studies indicate that these steps can help protect your bones and support cardiovascular health.

•    You can experiment with eating yogurt and aged cheeses to see if these are better tolerated than milk. Yogurt is fermented and it contains active cultures (beneficial probiotics) that can help with digestion.  Aged, hard cheeses contain less lactose and may be tolerated in small amounts.

If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health. The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107 in Frederick.

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*Sources: Office on Women’s Health (OWH); &

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