Lactose intolerance (LI) refers to the body’s inability to digest lactose, the natural sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance differs from a milk allergy, in which people suffer an immune reaction to milk protein. (Dairy allergies are most commonly seen in young children and often outgrown by 18 months to 2 years.).

Suffering from lactose intolerance doesn’t have to mean avoiding dairy products altogether. In fact, most people who experience lactose intolerance can still tolerate small amounts of milk. Aged, natural cheeses and yogurt are naturally low in lactose and can be great nutrient-rich dairy options in addition to lactose-free products. Follow these guidelines to continue to successfully enjoy dairy:

  • Try It: Opt for lactose-free milk and milk products. They are real milk products, just without the lactose, taste great and contain the same nutrients as regular dairy foods.
  • Sip It: Start with a small amount of milk daily and increase slowly over several days or weeks to tolerance.
  • Stir It: Mix milk with other foods, such as soups and cereal; blend with fruit or drink milk with meals. Solid foods help slow digestion and allow the body more time to digest lactose.
  • Slice It: Choose natural cheeses such as Cheddar and Swiss.
  • Spoon It: Enjoy yogurt. Its live and active cultures help digest lactose.


NIH Consensus Statement: In 2010, the National Institutes of Health held a development conference on the issue of lactose intolerance. This statement presents the state of the knowledge at the time of the conference.

NIH Scientific Summary: This document summarizes the NIH committee findings from the 2010 LI conference. According to the expert panel, “Many individuals with real or perceived lactose intolerance avoid dairy and ingest inadequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, which may predispose them to decreased bone accrual, osteoporosis and other adverse health outcomes. In most cases, individuals do not need to eliminate dairy consumption completely.”

National Medical Association Report – LI for African Americans: Although African Americans appear to be disproportionally affected by LI, prevalence rates have been overestimated.

NMA Scientific Summary: This scientific summary presents the key findings from the National Medical Association’s Report and offers tips for health professionals to help address LI within this patient population.

Scientific Summary – LI Prevalence: Self-Reported LI among a multi-ethnic adult population.


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