In dairy products there is a natural sugar called lactose. To be able to digest this natural sugar our body is supposed to produce an enzyme called lactase.
Unfortunately only 30 % of adults still have this enzyme available in their body once they become adults. The amount of available lactase drops dramatically (90 to 95%) during childhood and teenage years.
Depending on how much lactase we have left, we more or less digest dairy products.
Symptoms of an intolerance are:
- Pains or cramps in the lower belly.
- Gurgling or rumbling sounds in the lower belly
- Loose stools or diarhea
- And for some : throwing up.
You have to feel sick every time you have dairy products to have lactose intolerance. If it happens only a few times this doesn’t make you intolerant.
There is a way to know what your tolerance level is and to do so you have to do this test.
1) Remove all dairy products from your diet until all your symptoms have dissapeared.
2) Wait at least a week or two.
3) Reintroduce the equivalent of 1 g of lactose the first day at breakfast. See how you react. If you are ok double that amount (2g). If ok double that and so on until you eat the equivalent of 10-15 g of lactose.
4) Once you’ve found your limit for the serving you tolerate, see how often you can tolerate lactose per day.
If for example you tolerate 5 grams of lactose at breakfast without symptoms, see what happens if you add 1 gram of lactose at lunch. You are ok, then see what happens if you double that, etc.
|Food||Lactose in gram|
|1 cup of Milk||10 - 12|
|1/2 cup of ice cream||9|
|1 cup of Yogurt||5|
|1/2 cup of cottage cheese||2 - 3|
|1 oz of american, swiss or parmesan cheese||1|
|1 oz cheddar cheese||0|
|1 cup of sweetened condensed milk||40|
|1 cup of non fat dry milk powder||62|
|1 teaspoon of butter||0.05|
|1 oz of feta cheese||0.4|
|1/2 cup of sorbet||2|
Note that fermented dairy products like yogurts or kefir are usually well digested.
The fermentation bacteria in these products use the lactose sugar for themselves to grow.
Also note that hard cheeses are usually better digested because most of the lactose was removed from the process and the more your cheese is old the less lactose there will be in it.
I hope this will help you understand better what you can do to test your lactose tolerance level and reduce your uncomfortable symptoms.
Some people will feel more confortable completly removing dairy products from their diet and in that case you are going to have be careful with your calcium and vitamin D intake.