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What is ... Lactose Intolerance?

Photo of a glass of milk

There are various reasons why people choose not to include dairy products in their diets, lactose intolerance is one of these reasons.

Lactose is the name of the type of sugar that is found naturally in milk.

Some people have a shortage of the enzyme lactase so can't digest lactose properly, and having milk and some dairy products makes them feel sick or bloated and gives them stomach pains and diarrhoea.

Milk from animals including cows, goats, sheep and humans all contain lactose. This means that goats' milk and sheep's milk aren't suitable alternatives to cows' milk for people who are intolerant to lactose.

There is no medical treatment for lactose intolerance, but symptoms can be avoided by controlling the amount of lactose in the diet.

Milk and dairy products with reduced lactose are available from health food shops. People with lactose intolerance can also use soya, rice, quinoa, almond and oat drinks instead of milk. It's a good idea to choose one with added calcium. Also include natural sources of calcium by eating calcium rich foods such as pulses, nuts, wholegrains, Kelp and turnip greens.

People with lactose intolerance often find that they can eat cheese and yoghurt without any problems. Yoghurts with no added sugar are preferable as sugar feeds the harmful bacteria in the gut.

Choosing organic products may also help as a way of avoiding antibiotics and hormones and increasing intake of omega fatty acids.