Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose.

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose.
beginning of content

Lactose intolerance treatments

The main treatment for lactose intolerance is to reduce the amount of lactose in your diet. That means reducing the amount of dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt, ice cream and soft cheeses, that you eat or changing the way you eat these foods.

Most people with lactose intolerance don't need to eliminate dairy foods from their diet. Many of these foods don’t contain large amounts of lactose and are a good source of calcium. For example, most cheeses contain virtually no lactose and are usually well tolerated. Yoghurt is also generally well digested since it contains bacteria that ferment (or consume) the lactose.

Most people with lactose intolerance can consume around 8-10g of lactose a day without having symptoms. This is the amount present in 175 to 200mL (a small glass) of regular milk.

Tips for people with lactose intolerance

While you don’t need to eliminate lactose from your diet if you are lactose intolerant, you may need to manage how you eat dairy foods to reduce the possibility of symptoms. For example:

  • Drink milk with other foods and not on an empty stomach.
  • Distribute milk intake into small serves spread out over the day.
  • Build up your tolerance by starting small and gradually increasing your milk consumption.
  • Regular fat milk may be better tolerated than low fat or skim milk - fat slows the passage of lactose through your digestive system, giving you more time to digest it.
  • Yoghurt is often better tolerated than milk, and cheese is low in lactose and is well tolerated.

Other foods are good sources of calcium:

  • soy, almond and rice milk, although these are often lower in calcium
  • broccoli, tinned salmon, oranges, pinto beans, rhubarb and spinach.

If you suspect you have lactose intolerance, it’s wise to speak to a doctor or a dietitian.

A few people have such severe lactose intolerance that they have to avoid certain medicines because they contain lactose. It’s best to speak with your doctor or pharmacist if this is the case.

Lactose intolerance can be temporary, and it may be possible to gradually reintroduce milk and dairy products over time if you have had to reduce them in your diet.

Last reviewed: November 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 209 results

Nutrition and Lactose Intolerance | myVMC

Nutrition in lactose intolerance is important, because many lactose intolerance patients control their symptoms by avoiding foods which contain lactose, especially dairy products. Unfortunately, this may put them at risk of calcium deficiency.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Lactose intolerance -

Find out about the symptoms, tests and treatments for lactose intolerance.

Read more on myDr website

Understanding lactose intolerance Dietitians Association of Australia

Understanding lactose intolerance Lactose intolerance is a set of symptoms caused by the bodysinability to digest lactose properly

Read more on Dietitians Association of Australia website

Lactose intolerance and the breastfed baby | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Lactose intolerance is poorly understood in the Australian community. There are lots of myths and misunderstandings about it, especially when it comes to babies. Primary (or true) lactose intolerance is an extremely rare genetic condition and lactose intolerance is very different to intolerance or allergy to cows' milk protein. This article explains the differences between lactose intolerance and other conditions such as food allergies and lactose overload and dispels some of the myths about lactose intolerance in babies.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Lactose intolerance in babies

Lactose intolerance is a condition when your body cant break down a carbohydrate (sugar) called lactose which is present in cows milk, human breast milk, or any other milk from a mammal.

Read more on WA Health website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Lactose intolerance in babies

Lactase is an enzyme, or chemical, which the body uses to digest the sugar in milk(lactose). If there is not enough lactase, undigested milk sugar gets into the large bowel and may cause gut pains and diarrhoea. This is called lactose intolerance.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Cows Milk Protein Vs Lactose Intolerance - Reflux Infants Support Association Inc

Discusses the confusion between Lactose Intolerance and Cows Milk Protein Intolerance (CMPI) and looks at the differences between the two.

Read more on Reflux Infants Support Association website

Lactose Intolerance | Nutrition Australia

What is Lactose? Lactose is the carbohydrate naturally found in all kinds of milk, including human milk. It can also be used as an ingredient in some foods.

Read more on Nutrition Australia website

Nutrition for Medical Conditions | myVMC

Many health conditions, including high cholesterol, lactose intolerance, diabetes, pain, cancer and kidney failure, require special diets to meet their nutritional needs or restrictions.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthy eating for kids

Encourage healthy eating habits for kids by shopping healthy and planning meals to minimise temper tantrums at the dinner table and keep fussy eaters happy.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo