Myth 1: People with lactose intolerance can’t have any dairy products.
BUSTED: Most people with lactose intolerance can comfortably enjoy a small amount of dairy. Those with mild lactose malabsorption may be able to have a full glass of milk, which contains 12 grams of lactose, in one sitting. Those with moderate lactose intolerance can likely handle an ounce of cheese or a cup of yogurt without symptoms.
Dairy products can play an important role in your diet and overall health because of their calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients support strong bones. If you have lactose intolerance but can handle, consider having some of the following low-lactose dairy products to keep calcium and vitamin D levels at healthy levels.
- Cottage cheese.
- Hard cheese, such as Swiss and cheddar.
- Ricotta cheese.
Myth 2: Lactose intolerance is the same as a milk allergy.
BUSTED: Lactose intolerance is a disorder of your digestive system, not an allergy. It occurs when the digestive system does not produce sufficient lactase to break down lactose properly. Lactose, also known as “milk sugar,” is a type of sugar and carbohydrate naturally found in milk and many dairy products.
An allergy, on the other hand, is a reaction of your immune system. Milk allergy occurs when your body identifies one of the proteins in milk as harmful. These proteins are unrelated to lactose, which is a carbohydrate. Those with a true milk allergy can have an allergic reaction in response to even a tiny amount of milk or another dairy product. A severe reaction can be life-threatening.
Myth 3: Lactase pills can be harmful to your overall health.
BUSTED: Lactase has no common side effects. Lactase pills are simply an exact replacement for the lactase that the body is not producing. Unlike medications, which are broken down by the liver and can be toxic, lactase breaks down lactose in dairy products. In very rare cases, someone can be allergic to lactase pills. It’s wise to follow a doctor’s advice.
Myth 4: There’s no point in going to a doctor if you suspect lactose intolerance.
BUSTED: A doctor can help rule out other conditions that can cause some of the same symptoms of lactose intolerance, such as abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, gas, and nausea. Other conditions, such as gluten intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome, may also present with these symptoms.
Besides taking a medical history, your doctor can do a hydrogen breath test, since the amount of hydrogen gas in your breath increase when you have undigested lactose in your system. When your doctor diagnoses you with lactose intolerance, you can ask how much lactose and which kinds of dairy products you may comfortably include in your diet.
Myth 5: Lactose intolerance is a sign of disease.
BUSTED: The majority of cases of lactose intolerance occur in healthy individuals beginning around age 2. Asian Americans, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and American Indians are most likely to develop lactose intolerance. You can lower the risk of your children developing lactose intolerance by continuing to include milk in their daily diets. Having lactose intolerance does not make you more prone to other intolerances, such as high glucose levels.