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Problems Digesting Dairy Products

Tips for Consumers

  • If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or dairy products lower in lactose, such as yogurt and cheese. You may be able to consume dairy products in small amounts without symptoms.
  • Consume milk or other dairy products with other foods. This helps slow down digestion, making it easier for your body to absorb lactose.
  • If you're eating few or no dairy products, ask your doctor or dietitian if you are getting enough calcium in your diet. You may need to take dietary supplements with calcium to keep your bones healthy.

Raw Milk and Lactose Intolerance

FDA warns consumers not to drink raw, or unpasteurized, milk. "Raw milk advocates claim that pasteurized milk causes lactose intolerance," says John Sheehan, Director of FDA's Division of Plant and Dairy Food Safety. "This is simply not true. All milk, whether raw or pasteurized, contains lactose, and pasteurization does not change the concentration of lactose nor does it convert lactose from one form into another."

Raw milk advocates also claim that raw milk prevents or cures the symptoms of lactose intolerance. Arguing that raw milk contains Bifidobacteria, they claim these microorganisms are beneficial (probiotic) and create their own lactase, which helps people digest the milk.

"This is not true, either," says Sheehan. "Raw milk can contain Bifidobacteria, but when it does, the bacteria come from fecal matter (animal manure) and are not considered probiotic, but instead are regarded as contaminants."

Drinking raw milk will still cause uncomfortable symptoms in people who are correctly diagnosed as being lactose intolerant. But worse than this discomfort are the dangers of raw milk, which can harbor a host of disease-causing germs, says Sheehan. "These microorganisms can cause very serious, and sometimes even fatal, disease conditions in humans."

For more information about topics for your health, visit the FDA Consumer Information Center (www.fda.gov/consumer). 

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