Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
Symptoms include gas, diarrhoea, and swelling in the stomach following the consumption of dairy products. If you think you might be lactose-intolerant, talk to your doctor. There are a number of medical tests (including blood, breath, and stool tests) that can help your doctor determine if you have lactose intolerance.
A number of factors may contribute to lactose intolerance, including medical disorders affecting the small intestine (such as coeliac disease and Crohn's disease), increasing age, and complications from chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Watchpoints for Lactose Intolerance
If Lactose, Whey, Milk or Milk Solids are listed as ingredients on the labels of packaged food they will contain moderate or low levels of lactose.
Unlabelled food - such as that bought from the delicatessen counter or bakery - may contain milk or may contain lactose as a food additive. Some white bread and pastries from bakeries will contain milk and therefore lactose.
Paté, sausages, luncheon meat and other processed meat may contain lactose. Kosher products will be lactose-free.
Yoghurt: if unsweetened, look at the amount of sugars – this will be the amount of lactose. Greek yoghurt and other yoghurt with a high fat content will contain less lactose than other varieties. The bacterial enzymes in live yoghurt can be of great benefit to anyone with lactase deficiency.
Look at the nutritional information panel on the label on pre-packed cheese. The level of sugars consists entirely of lactose.
Lactose-free dairy substitutes include soy milk, soy yoghurt, rice milk, oat milk, almond milk and hazelnut milk. Low-lactose cow’s milk, where the lactose has been reduced by treatment with lactase enzyme is now widely available.
The Lactose content of food
Very high lactose content products:
- Evaporated and condensed milk
- Cheeses made from whey such as Norwegian brown cheese
- Yoghurt-coated nuts, raisins, muesli bars – check the labels for lactose in the coating
- Human breast milk and standard infant formula
- High energy supplements (whey protein shakes and similar used by sportsmen)
- Some yoghurt (but see note above)
High lactose content products:
- All animal milk. (Skimmed cow’s milk has more lactose than whole milk. Goat’s milk is slightly lower in lactose than cow’s milk)
- Buttermilk but see note above)
- Curd cheese and ricotta
- Cheese spread and processed cheese
- Some cottage cheese (check label)
- Ice cream
- White sauce
- Milk-based puddings such as rice pudding, crème caramel, baked egg custard etc
Moderate lactose content products:
- Cream cheese, some cottage cheese (check label)
- Cream, crème fraîche, fromage frais
- Fudge, butterscotch, toffee
- Medicines in capsule or tablet form where lactose is used as a filler. (It will be listed under ‘Inactive ingredients’ on the label. There are lactose-free alternatives that the pharmacist can recommend)
- Some dry powder asthma inhalers
- Sweet’n’Low, Canderel, some other sweeteners (check the label)
- Dry-roasted peanuts where lactose is used in the coating (check the label)
Low level lactose content products:
- Sour cream
- Swiss cheese (Emmental, Jarlsberg)
- English cheeses (Cheddar etc)
- Brie, Camembert, Mozzarella, Parmesan, most well-aged cheeses
- Butter and foods made with butter ( homemade pastry, cakes, biscuits)
- Coffee whitener, milk substitutes (but some brands contain lactose – check the label)
Lactose intolerance can be managed by taking a natural lactase enzyme supplement.