5 myths about lactose intolerance

Hint: you don’t have to ditch dairy altogether


Lactose intolerance is the body’s inability to digest the natural sugar found in dairy products. Misconceptions have encouraged people to cut out dairy products completely, which could potentially result in nutrient shortfalls. We’ve busted some of these myths for you.

Myth 1: Lactose intolerance is the same thing as a dairy allergy

People who are lactose intolerant can’t digest the sugar – lactose – in milk, because their bodies don’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase, which helps to digest lactose. Symptoms are mainly gastrointestinal. Milk allergy is the immune system’s response to proteins found in dairy milk. Symptoms can vary from mild, like a rash, to extreme, such as anaphylaxis.

Myth 2: People are born with lactose intolerance

It’s possible, but rare, for babies to be born intolerant to lactose due to a lack of lactase-production activity. This is called congenital lactose intolerance because it’s passed from generation to generation in a process called autosomal recessive inheritance, meaning both parents have to pass on the gene variant.

Myth 3: You don’t need to see a doctor if you think you’re lactose intolerant

While gastrointestinal symptoms can indicate lactose intolerance, they can also be indicative of a more serious underlying medical issue such as coeliac disease or Crohn’s disease. In serious cases, you should go to a doctor to check that something else isn’t wrong. For mild cases, a simple blood test can be used to establish whether you are intolerant.

Myth 4: People who are lactose intolerant shouldn’t eat dairy

There are loads of tasty dairy-free products on the market, including rice milk and other lactose-free products, which give you all the nutritional value of dairy without the side effects.

Myth 5: Lactose-free dairy treats are hard to find

Milk and plain and strawberry yoghurt aren’t the only lactose-free products on the market. There’s a range of ice creams that are as indulgent as conventional ice cream. Try some of Woolworths’ lactose-free products.

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