Last updated: 04 October 2011
The treatment for lactose intolerance is to avoid milk and dairy products or to reduce your intake to a level at which you do not experience any symptoms.
Different dairy foods contain different levels of lactose. For example, a lot of mature or hard cheeses such as cheddar and parmesan are quite low in lactose. It isn't possible to tell a food’s lactose content from reading the label, so it's worth experimenting.
Try to include live yoghurt in your diet if you can, as it contains live bacteria that help digest lactose. These yoghurts also boost the levels of healthy bacteria in your gut, which again can reduce symptoms and may help you recover better from secondary lactose intolerance caused by antibiotics.
Reduced or low-lactose milks are suitable for many people with lactose intolerance. These are available from most supermarkets and health food stores.
The following foods are lactose-free:
- all soya milks, yoghurts and some cheeses
- all milks made from rice, oats, quinoa, almonds, hazelnuts, coconut and potato
- all foods which carry the "dairy-free" or "suitable for vegans" signs
- pure, dark chocolate and carob bars
Try to avoid anything that can irritate or damage the gut, such as excessively spicy food or alcohol.
There is no need to adopt a vegan diet when you're diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Fish, meat and eggs are all allowed on a lactose-free diet and are an important source of vitamin B12, which is only available from animal sources. If you wish to become a vegan for other reasons, speak to your GP for advice.
Some medicines and tablets can contain lactose, so if you're on regular medication or are prescribed a new medicine, it's worth checking its potential lactose content.
Continue to next section: Lactose and your child