Ten common misconceptions about lactose intolerance

23.06.2015 15:25

1.    Lactose intolerance is a disease. 

Lactose intolerance is a food intolerance. It is neither an allergy nor a disease. About 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. The fact that individuals can’t tolerate milk as adults is thus quite normal.

2.    Lactose intolerant individuals must avoid all dairy products.

For one thing, there are varying degrees of lactose intolerance. Affected individuals can tolerate, depending on the severity of their particular intolerance, small amounts of lactose. With time, lactose intolerant individuals will figure out what their tolerance level is. Moreover, not all dairy products (for example, hard cheeses) have enough lactose to trigger physical discomfort.  And finally, lactase supplements such as LactoJoy make it possible to eat dairy products occasionally.

3.    Lactose-containing medications should generally be avoided.

Not necessarily, the amount of lactose in many medications is so small that it can be taken without hesitation by those who suffer from light to moderate lactose intolerance.

4.    Sheep and goat milk does not contain lactose and can therefore be tolerated.

This is a very persistent rumor that is, in fact, untrue. The amount of lactose in sheep or goat milk is about the same amount that’s in cow milk.

5.    Raw milk is easy to tolerate.

There is also widespread misunderstanding that the bacteria in unpasteurized milk breaks down lactose and that raw milk is thus easy to tolerate. In fact, raw milk is just as problematic as pasteurized milk for individuals who are lactose intolerant.

6.    “Lactose-free” products contain 0% lactose.

Products that are marked “lactose-free” still contain a residual amount of lactose. The lactose amount is normally around< 0.01 g per 100 g.  Unfortunately, there is no clear legislation and no reliable monitoring system in place when it comes to the designation “lactose-free”. 

7.    Food products with the notice “may contain traces of milk /lactose“ must be avoided.

This note is, in fact, a sure sign that the lactose content is negligible (or non-existent) and that the product can be safely consumed.

8.    Coke contains lactose.

Neither Coke Zero, diet Coke, Pepsi nor similar products contain lactose. These are beverages that must be avoided only by individuals with fructose intolerance since they contain the sweetener “high fructose corn syrup”.

9.     If lactose isn’t listed in the ingredients, you can be sure the product is lactose free.

If the list of ingredients includes milk, milk protein, cream, quark or sweet whey powder, by law, it’s not necessary for the manufacturer to list the product’s lactose content separately.

10. Yoghurt is a dairy product and is thus not well tolerated.

That depends. In the case of fruit yoghurts, you should be cautious because fruit yoghurt is frequently enriched with milk powder. Tart, natural yoghurt without additives, on the other hand, is generally tolerated quite well because, in addition to the milk sugar contained, it also provides the bacteria required to digest it. How convenient!