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Lactose: Simple Tips for Tolerance

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According to the National Institutes of Health, the foremost health authority in the United States, most people who are lactose intolerant may still enjoy milk products every day. Here are some tips that can make it easier for your body to digest lactose.

How to Get Milk’s Benefits Symptom Free 

In 2010, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated in its scientific consensus1 that people with lactose intolerance (real or perceived) who avoid milk products have inadequate intakes of calcium and vitamin D—two nutrients that are extremely important for bone health.

According to the NIH, the foremost health authority in the United States, most lactose-sensitive individuals can slowly build a tolerance to lactose-containing foods and drinks without gastrointestinal discomfort. How? Incorporate small amounts of milk into your diet with meals, then slowly increase the amount over a few weeks.

Thus, adults and adolescents who have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance can still consume the equivalent of 1 cup (250 mL) of milk at a time with no or very little discomfort. The American organization also points out that larger amount of lactose can be tolerated if ingested with meals. Try it—you'll find the results are really worthwhile!

Try these practical tips

  • Drink milk in small portions throughout the day instead of drinking a large glass at a time.
  • Drinking milk with a meal or with other foods can help tolerance.
  • Eat yogurt. It contains live bacteria that help break down lactose and is usually tolerated even by people who suffer from severe lactose intolerance.
  • Try cheeses such as Mozzarella, Cheddar, Swiss, Blue and Brie. They contain almost no lactose.
  • Use milk products in recipes with other ingredients.
  • Lactose-free milk products are widely available in grocery stores.
  • Take lactase enzyme drops or tablets before drinking milk.

Which foods contain lactose?

Lactose is found in milk products. Here is the lactose content of some common milk products:

Lactose content of some usual milk products2,3
Milk product Serving Lactose content (g)
Milk, whole 250 mL (1 cup) 13.02
Milk, 2% M.F. 250 mL (1 cup) 12.92
Milk, 1% M.F. 250 mL (1 cup) 13.41
Milk, skim 250 mL (1 cup) 13.18
Chocolate milk 2% M.F. 250 mL (1 cup) 10
Yogurt 175 g (3/4 cup) 6-8.5
Cheeses: Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella, Parmesan 50 g (1 ½ oz) Less than 0.10


1. National Institutes of Health. NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement: Lactose Intolerance and Health. NIH Consens State Sci Statements 2010;27(2).

2. Canadian Nutrient File, Health Canada, version 2015.

3. Dietitians of Canada. “Food sources of lactose”. 2013

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