A high proportion of the world’s population is not able to digest the lactose (milk sugars) in milk because of a deficiency in the enzyme lactase – this enzyme breaks down the lactose in the digestive system.
The undigested lactose remains in the gut, where it can cause long-term health problems. Avoiding lactose is the usual answer for such people.
Lactose is found in the milk and milk byproducts of cows, goats and sheep. Some people with lactose intolerance find they can tolerate goat’s and sheep’s milk better than cow’s milk.
Acidophilus milk, which is pasteurised cow’s milk to which Lactobacillus bacteria have been reintroduced, is easier to digest than ordinary cow’s milk, and may provide another alternative.
Some cheeses, including Brie, Edam and pecorino, contain only very small amounts of lactose and may therefore be tolerated.
If you think you may be lactose-intolerant, seek advice from your doctor before making any changes to your diet.