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

3-minute read

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 altogether. 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 up to 250ml (one glass) of milk each day, if you consume it in small amounts throughout the day along with other foods.

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. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate ½ cup of milk at a time.
  • Regular fat milk contains less lactose than low fat or skim milk.
  • Yoghurt is often better tolerated than milk, and cheese is low in lactose and is well tolerated.
  • You can buy drops from your pharmacy to put in milk to make it easier to digest. Talk to your doctor about the best product for you.
  • Watch out for lactose in processed foods such as biscuits and cakes, cheese sauce, cream soups and custards.

It’s important to consume enough calcium every day. Most adults need at least 1,000 mg of calcium every day — more if you are an older or a pregnant woman.

Soy products with added calcium do not contain any lactose and can be a substitute for dairy products.

Other foods are good sources of calcium include:

  • 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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2018

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Understanding lactose intolerance - Dietitians Australia

Medical Understanding lactose intolerance Understanding lactose intolerance Lactose intolerance is a set of symptoms caused by the body’s inability to digest lactose properly

Read more on Dietitians Australia website

Lactose intolerance -

Lactase deficient people do not have enough lactase, the enzyme that helps break down lactose and they suffer from lactose intolerance. The main symptoms of lactose intolerance are bloating and wind. 

Read more on myDr website

Lactose intolerance - Better Health Channel

Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, gas, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

Read more on Better Health Channel 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

5 Signs you may be lactose intolerant -

Lactose intolerance is due to not having enough of the enzyme lactase to digest the sugars, such as lactose, in milk. Find out if you have symptoms or signs.

Read more on myDr website

Milk intolerance in babies and children

Find out more about lactose intolerance and milk allergies in babies and children, including the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby 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

Which type of milk should I drink? - Dietitians Australia

Food and Food Products Which type of milk should I drink? Which type of milk should I drink? Regular cows’ milk is the most common type of milk available in the supermarket

Read more on Dietitians Australia website

Food intolerances: children & teenagers | Raising Children Network

Food intolerance symptoms in children and teens include bloating, diarrhoea and stomach pain. If you think your child has food intolerance, talk to your GP.

Read more on website

Flatulence -

Flatulence, or wind, is an excess of gas in the stomach and intestines. It is normal for gas to be passed as flatus 14-23 times a day, depending on diet.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice 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 and advice

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