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Problems Digesting Dairy Products

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Look at Labels continued...

Look at the ingredient label. If any of these words are listed, the product probably contains lactose:

  • milk
  • cream
  • butter
  • evaporated milk
  • condensed milk
  • dried milk
  • powdered milk
  • milk solids
  • margarine
  • cheese
  • whey
  • curds

Highly sensitive individuals should also beware of foods labeled "non-dairy," such as powdered coffee creamers and whipped toppings. These foods usually contain an ingredient called sodium caseinate, expressed as "caseinate" or "milk derivative" on the label, that may contain low levels of lactose.

Testing for Lactose Intolerance

A doctor can usually determine if you are lactose intolerant by taking a medical history. In some cases, the doctor may perform tests to help confirm the diagnosis. A simple way to test at home is to exclude all lactose-containing products from your diet for two weeks to see if the symptoms go away, and then reintroduce them slowly. If the symptoms return, then you most likely are lactose intolerant. But you may still want to see your doctor to make sure that you are lactose intolerant and do not have a milk allergy or another digestive problem.

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."