Lactose-free or Low-lactose Diets

lactose free diet means eating foods that have no lactose

Lactose-free diet: all lactose products must be eliminated, including foods that are prepared with milk, both at home and in commercially packaged foods.

Low-lactose diet: generally eliminates only milk and milk products.

Lactose is a sugar that is a normal part of milk products. It can also be found in a variety of other foods and even as a filler in some pills and capsules. Some people do not break down lactose well. They may not have enough lactase, the enzyme that breaks lactose down in the body into 2 simple sugars, which the body can use for nourishment.

The absence of lactase allows lactose and extra liquids to pass through the intestine to the colon (large bowel), where lactose is broken down by bacteria to lactic acid (irritant and laxative) and gases.

As a result symptoms may include:

  • bloating
  • diarrhoea
  • abdominal cramps
  • gas or flatulence.

Lactose intolerance does not cause damage to the intestine. The purpose of this diet is to eliminate lactose or reduce it to tolerable levels.

People with reduced lactase activity may include those certain intestinal conditions such as; Crohns Disease and Coeliac disease, patients with removal of the stomach or parts of the small intestine, and alcohol or drugs.

Tolerance of lactose is variable. Some people can eat small amounts of lactose without having symptoms while others need to avoid it completely. 

Dairy products are important sources of calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin D. Some lactose-intolerant people are able to tolerate certain dairy products in small amounts, and their diets may provide enough of these nutrients. The doctor or registered dietitian may recommend certain vitamin supplements and/or a calcium supplement for some patients.

Many recipes on this site include pointers of when to substitute for a lactose free alternative, or may advise if they do not contain lactose.

It is very important to always read labels, and when cooking at home, using suitable alternatives!

Some suitable foods for lactose intolerance may include:

  • SOY Milk Calcium-fortified soy milk has no lactose, is low in fat and is a good source of Vitamin D
  • 100% lactose-free milk
  • Fresh Vegetables & fruit
  • Water based; breads (take care reading labels), Rice, crackers, corn meal, pasta, barley, bulgar, plain grains
  • Peanut butter, All nuts and seeds, Beans, Lentils, Peas
  • Margarines without milk derivatives (such as whey)
  • Vegetable oils, Olives and olive oils, non-dairy containing dressings
  • Tofu
  • None processed meat and fish
  • sugar, honey, jams and jellies, maple and corn syrup, molasses, herbs, spices, salt, pepper.