Question: Can lactose intolerance be cured?

July 20, 2010
I am lactose intolerant and I hate it because I love cheese and most desserts are actually dairy. I wonder if there's a way that will help me enjoy dairy/food with dairy without suffering from the ill effects of these in my digestive system or I guess if there's something I can do to ease it if not cure it. Thanks


Chris Paulk's picture

Unfortunately in most cases the answer is no, though there are medications that can lessen the symptoms. Some people who can't tolerate cows milk can tolerate goats milk. There are vegan cheeses and I have had some really good cheese made from cashews (no dairy). You can make cashew cheese at home, which is good news.
Try making your desserts with coconut milk- not the canned kind- our grocery stores now carry it in the dairy dept. in half gallon cartons that look just like milk (but better tasting). It comes in vanilla, plain and low fat.
I've substituted the coconut milk in some recipes with good success.

The Heritage Cook's picture

There is no cure because it is a genetic condition. Your body does not produce enough Lactase, the enzyme needed to break down the Lactose (milk sugar) in dairy products. Over-the-counter products like "Lactaid" are usually quite effective. I use "Lactaid Milk" in nearly all my baked products with no problems. Soy Milk is also a good substitution. Most people have more trouble with raw milk and cheese products like cottage cheese and Brie. Try aged cheeses like Cheddar and Parmesan - you may have fewer symptoms with that. Good luck!

Holly Worton's picture

Actually, lactose intolerance is the norm. Humans are mammals, and like most mammals, we are designed to discontinue dairy consumption after we've been weaned from our mothers' milk. However, some cultures (those that have been raising cattle for thousands of years) have developed a lactose tolerance. Think Northern European cultures. This is why Native Americans, Asians, and people of African heritage are generally "lactose intolerant."

I was just reading in The End of Food that Nestlé has done studies to try to introduce more dairy products into Asia, and if a person consumes dairy on a daily basis for three months, s/he can develop the enzyme needed to digest milk. Of course, you'll feel terrible in the process, but taking a carbon pill along with the dairy, or just after eating, can help reduce or eliminate the discomfort.

Try starting out with homemade yogurt with lots of active cultures, take lactobacillus pills with live cultures, then move to cheese and lastly liquid milk, which is generally hardest to digest.

Often goat or sheep cheese/milk is easier to digest than cow's milk. Give that a try as well. Also try uncooked cheese over cooked/melted cheese. That can be easier to digest.