Lactose Intolerance

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose is the sugar naturally found in animal milks – human breast milk, cow, sheep and goat milk etc.  Lactose is broken down in the gut by an enzyme called lactase.  Once the lactose is broken down it can be absorbed by the body.  If our gut does not produce enough lactase to break down the lactose, this leads to lactose intolerance.  True lactose intolerance is quite rare in babies but becomes more common in older children and adults.

Humans have been drinking animal milks for over 10 000years.  This has meant that many ethnic groups have retained the ability to digest lactose through adulthood.  However, ethnic groups who have not traditionally consumed animal milks have a much higher rate of lactose intolerance e.g. Maori, Pacific Islanders, people of Asian descent.

Because of where lactase is produced in our bodies, it is also possible to get short-term lactose intolerance following a gut inflammation or a stomach bug.  This usually settles down after a short period of time.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that a lactose-free diet needs to be totally milk free, or that they only need to avoid cows’ milk.  In fact, everyone has a different tolerance level and not all milk products contain lactose.

  • Cows’ Milk, 250ml                              12g lactose
  • Goats’ Milk, 250ml                             11g lactose
  • Yoghurt, 100g                                     4g lactose
  • Cheddar cheese, 40g                         0g lactose
  • Cream cheese, 20g                             0.6g lactose
  • Ice cream, 50g                                     3g lactose

If you want guidance on how to follow a low lactose or lactose-free diet, give us a call, we’d be happy to help.

At NutritionWorks we are also able to test for lactose intolerance with breath hydrogen and methane testing, click here for more information.