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Lactose Intolerant? Here's help

I recently became lactose intolerant this year. Actually I think I was always lactose intolerant (memories of insisting to my mom that milk made me throw up- ok that might've been psychological but still), but this year it got pretty bad that even popping a lactase pill wasn't enough to avoid the tummyache after a glass of vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk.

So I'm a newbie to the unfair world of saying no thanks to ice cream. Today I found a few great resources on the web listing the lactose content of dairy foods, so I thought I'd share.

Here's a PDF from the U. of Virginia listing lactose content in grams of a short list of dairy foods:

Here's a website chock full of info (including avoid all foods that list whey in its ingredients, which can include bread!), but the website doesn't always identify its sources. I like the really long list of lactose percentages:

That website even has the lactose content of breast milk of 31 different mammals! Lactose intolerant? Avoid goat milk, it could be just as bad as cow milk. But drink platypus milk or sea lion milk to your heart's (& tummy's) content!

I've been sticking to Lactaid since I haven't found a rice or soy milk that tastes like cow milk, but I here are the suggestions for milk-alternatives that we recently had on this board:

And here are the suggestions for ice cream alternatives; I'll now have to start looking into these:

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  1. Alice, thanks for these great links and info.

    Have you tried the "soy beverage" (make sure it's the "plain," not the Vanilla) at Trader Joe's? I find that this is a relatively good imitation of cow milk. It doesn't taste sweet, and it doesn't have the soy/tofu taste either.

    I also think a lot of the excessively sweet coffee drinks and products exacerbate gastrointestinal distress. For instance, I find that n the the caramel macchiatto at Starbucks, it's more the caramel than the dairy that causes severe stomach cramps in me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Pamela

      Tj's stocks WESTSOY brand soy milk, which in my opinion has almost the same mouthfeel as regular milk with little to no "soy taste." I get the regular flavor -- Vanilla is too much like a milkshake. Stay away from the lite and fat free versions though -- they are gross.

    2. Do you happen to find Lactaid milk too sweet at all? I'm not LI but my fiance is, and once in a while I get stuck drinking his milk when I run out of my Horizon Organic milk. We find Lactaid to be disturbingly sweet, so whenever he gets a chance, he tries to buy Land O Lakes Dairy Ease. It just tastes more like milk. I think Trader Joes carries this...

      1 Reply
      1. re: mrsry

        I don't like soy milk AND am lactose intolerant, not a good combo. You're right--too sweet. I like skim milk and there's no soy equivalent. I've been taking acidophilus, which seems to help a little bit.

      2. Oh yes, Lactaid milk is too sweet! Actually I've been drinking Lactaid or the Lucerne version (Safeway's dairy brand), and both taste the same (sweet). But the soy or rice flavor of soy/rice milk bugs me more than sweetness. I tried the soy milk at TJs a couple years ago but not the "soy beverage" so I'll look for that, as well as the Land O Lakes Dairy ease.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Alice Patis

          I really like Lucerne's skim lactose free milk, but I haven't been able to find a generic 1% - only the Lactaid brand. I've looked at Giant, Safeway, Harris Teeter, Bloom and anywhere else that I find milk, but NO company has a generic 1% - they all have skim, 2% and whole. Is this part of a copyright agreement where Lactaid brand has exclusive rights to 1% lactose free milk?

          1. re: kwadz7

            Organic Valley has a 1% lactose free milk that's not terribly sweet. I can't stomach Lactaid brand at all, but like OV's other milks, this one tastes good, if a little sweeter than their regular 1%. I prefer this national brand (or a couple local ones) because OV answers inquiries about their procedures and policies, unlike Horizon. I have a feeling Horizon does just the minimum to meet organic standards.

          2. re: Alice Patis

            Lactaid milk is sweet because the lactose in it has been broken down into glucose... if 'lactose-free' milk is NOT sweet, then it's not lactose-free for my digestive tract to handle. I like the 2% with added calcium that they sell at Publix.

          3. I've been lactose intolerant since my late-20's yet remain a dairy lover. Here's my solution to funny-tasting Lactaid - Lacteeze Drops, mfd. by Gelda in Canada. I've ordered these for years now, and add them to my organic milk . . . no funny taste and you're drinking the milk you actually WANT to drink.


            1. Some people who are lactose intolerant have much less problem digesting non-homogenized milk (aka creamline or creamtop milk).

              2 Replies
              1. re: Karl S

                Raw milk is supposed to give even fewer people problems.

                My father is lactose intolerant but swears that warmed up milk doesn't give him any problems. Very strange, and I'm sure most people don't drink warm milk unless they have to (or in hot chocolate), but he says it works.

                1. re: Pei

                  I get very sick from regular milk, but raw milk doesn't give me ANY problems. I strongly recommend that those of you who have safe local producers give it a try. I have it in my coffee daily and I can drink a glass with cookies, no problem. I figure it's just the healthy bacteria helping me to digest it.

              2. They got Rice Milk, Almond Milk too. They sell an assortment of this stuff at whole foods. If you buy a case I believe they give you a discount. Also, they got wide arrays of soy cheeses.

                1. I find that taking acidophilus pills with dairy helps me to digest it. Sometimes drinking green tea afterwards helps too.

                  1. Trader Joe's also carries a Lactase & Rennin supplement in capsule form. My sister swears by it.

                    1. I too am lactose intolerant. Just FYI, since heavy cream has a very low lactose content, my husband uses that + Lactaid 2% or whole milk to make me ice cream (he starts with a custard base). I was nervous at first, but have never gotten sick.

                      1. Wow! Thanks for the resources!

                        My lactose intolerance has been getting worse and worse over the years. It used to be plain milk, then yogurt, then ice cream, etc. Now, even small amounts of cheese can set me off. I'm still ok with the lactase pills, but I had to start with two at a time, because one wasn't enough. I'm not fan of American soy milk (grew up with the Chinese version... love it, but it can't be put on anything), so I stick to the Lactaid milk. I don't mind the sweetness, since I rarely drink milk straight. I suspect the sweetness probably comes from lactose being broken up into glucose and galactose, with the extra glucose making the milk taste sweeter.

                        My biggest hurdle has been coffee drinks and I find that soy milk tastes really odd with espresso. So, I stick to Lactaid, which steams and froths nicely. When at a coffee shop, I take my pills and hope for the best.

                        Trader Joe's has a variety of soy and sugar-free ice cream that tastes ok. I still eat the regular stuff and pop more pills.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: geekyfoodie

                          I find that a small amount of half & half is okay in one morning coffee. The fat of the cream has, as I recall, less lactose than milk. And a small amount colors/flavors/thickens much better than a large amount of regular milk.

                          1. re: Up With Olives

                            Agreed. I usually have espresso, but when I have a regular coffee, I usually use half-and-half or even heavy whipping cream when it's on hand. Not great for my arteries or my waistline, but it's in very small amounts. Plus, if the coffee's really strong (I don't drink anything that doesn't burn a brain cell or two), a fattier creamer usually takes the bite out.

                            One drink I had to stop drinking was the shot of espresso in a regular coffee. There's a bunch of names for it, so I'm not sure what to call it. I would put a ton of half-and-half in it and be jazzed up all day. Whew... had to stop that before I became too hooked.

                            1. re: Up With Olives

                              I read somewhere that half & half does have less lactose. I use very little in tea with no problems.
                              Its a guessing game with me. Some things bother me other things dont. Some cheeses are no good others are fine. Same with yogurt. My doc says most Italians are lactose intolerant. And yet ice cream in Italy is soo good and didnt bother me. However, Carvel and Dairy Queen are killers. Haagen Dazs is murder.

                              1. re: tom porc

                                When I was in Italy last summer, I actually found milk-free gelato (soya or rice based) in Perugia and Rome, and it was actually GOOD!

                                I'm surprised about Haagen Daz vs Italian gelato (I can't eat either) because HD regular is very high-fat and gelato is made with milk, not cream.

                                Almost no Italians I know drink milk, and even children there drink far less than here (here is Qu├ębec). People eat cheese, which is transformed, and often of ewe's or goat's milk which bother many lactose-intolerant people less. And in recent years, yoghurt has become popular, though less than in France.

                                In general, people in the Mediterranean basin have some degree of lactose intolerance. I read an article about this not long ago - there was quite a difference between Northern, Central and Southern Italians.

                                1. re: lagatta

                                  It is funny how different things affect us lactose-wise. Perhaps, it's what I eat throughout the day or with the dairy that helps keep the pain away or adds to it.
                                  I dont know what the gelato was made from but I know it had liquor in it :o) It was in Florence and very popular with the locals and police.
                                  My family came from Naples and Calabria so I may have a high (but not the highest) degree of intolerance unfortunately :((

                                  Yes, I do remember reading something about the further north you go the more dairy-friendly people are with Northern Europeans being least likely to be LI.

                                  1. re: tom porc

                                    It may also be that cause and effect are not being distinguished. I have heard (ok, it's a rumour) that in the UK that LI is increasing, partially due to immigration of different cultures, but also because milk was a part of the staple diet of Brits, whether with cereal. supplied free at school, drunk with their tea, or in foods like bread and butter pudding, rice pudding, pancakes etc.

                                    To some extent, lactose intolerance is part of the process of being weaned. I'm still a child at heart, since you are what you eat.

                          2. FWIW, I have read that people who are LI with cow's milk sometimes find that goat's milk products don't cause the same reaction. Depending on where you are, goat's milk and goat's milk yogurt may be available in the supermarket.

                            I can't comment from first hand experience as I am not LI, but thought I'd share in case no one mentioned these alternatives.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Louise

                              try sheep's yogurt. tastes great!

                              when I'm out of the house, i bring a small container from home filled with some Lactaid. if I want to grab a coffee or tea, i'm all prepared.

                              if you don't tolerate regular yogurt, you can strain it through cheescloth overnight. the whey drips out and most of the lactose is gone. or make your own yogurt, and ferment it a good long time - that'll get rid of any residual lactose.

                            2. About a year and a half ago, I was diagnosed as being intolerant to lactose. All the sudden, I can eat dairy again with NO problem! It's totally wild. So, I guess there's hope...

                              Anyway, I found that while I was doing the no-dairy thing that I fell in love with almond milk. It doesn't give you the gas that soy milk does and it has this fantstic rich and creamy mouth-feel. Also, it comes un-sweetened, which is great for simulating the milk experience. The stuff I found was made my blue diamond and they carry it at Trader Joes usually.

                              I also found that the Millenium Cookbook was a great resource. I wasn't really excited about being a vegetarian who was also lactose intolerant (I did NOT sign on to be vegan!) but that book really helped get me through.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: coseboom

                                I agree. The Blue Diamond or Pacific unsweetened almond milks are delicious, ever so much better than rice milk, which is what I used to have, but only an cereal, etc. I could never drink rice milk, bleh. One thing to note is that the BD brand is calcium fortified, while the Pacific is not, so if that's a concern...

                              2. Is Lactaid considered Organic?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MiNena77

                                  If it doesn't say "Certified Organic" on the carton, I doubt it.

                                2. Thanks for sharing, Alice:o)

                                  Not only am I Lactose Intolerant, I also have a milk allergy which causes an over production of mucus if I have too much milk/cream/cheese over a course of a few days which will then turn into an infection and sometimes even bronchitis! Lovely, eh, LOL? So I take Lactase when ever I even think there's dairy in something and I try not to have too much dairy consecutively.

                                  I have fallen in love with Blue Diamond Almond Milk. I get the regular, sugar-free kind and cook with it and use it with cereal. I can't wait to try making ice cream using the almond milk. I'll report back if it works!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: voyageurdemonde

                                    >>>Not only am I Lactose Intolerant, I also have a milk allergy<<<

                                    Have you been diagnosed with these or just suspect it? I ask because many folks say they are either LI or have a milk allergy and haven't been tested. Far more people claim LI than really have it. Not saying that is true in your case.

                                    And LI can fade in and out over the years, according to the food scientists. The body can make the lactase enzyme, then stop, then start again. Sounds weird but it's true.

                                  2. We're vegan so avoid dairy. We use Pacific brand lowfat vanilla almond mylk on cereal and for baking, I add a little Blue Diamond chocolate almond mylk for drinking. They're generally less expensive at TJs than at Whole Paycheck. We've tried a couple of the chocolate hemp mylks from WFM when they're on sale.

                                    As far as nondairy frozen desserts go:
                                    We tried the peanut butter chocolate fudge from the above brand tonight after finding it on sale at WFM.

                                    We also recently tried Cherry Nirvana, Chocolate Obsession, and Pomegranate Chip versions (also on sale) from the following.

                                    Here's another brand we tried not long ago. We had the strawberry.

                                    All are rather expensive when not on sale, but well worth it when on sale. We don't generally eat these type products very often, but I figured I would pass along the info.

                                    1. For those who haven't been medically diagnosed with LI following testing, you might want to investigate IBS. The digestive tract symptoms are the same; so while Lactose free products amy help, they also may not be the whole story. Other changes in diet may benefit you as well.

                                      Here is a site that has been helpful for our family: