Say Cheese! Can you still eat cheese if you’re intolerant to lactose?

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By The Gut Health Doctor Team

Dr Megan Rossi in a lab looking through a microscope

Now this may sound cheesey … but did you know you can still enjoy cheese even if you have milk sugar (aka lactose) intolerance?

In fact, most people who are intolerant to lactose can still eat small amounts spread across the day without symptoms (around 3grams of lactose per sitting, the equivalent of approx. 40ml of cow’s milk, with up to 12grams per day- see page 129 in my book Eat Yourself Healthy & Love Your Gut for a full list of foods!)

Interestingly, complete avoidance over a long period of time may actually lower your tolerance – I often see this in clinic.

A restricted diet long term also reduces the fun of eating and socialising – and nobody wants that!

Now I completely agree & respect that there are a number of great reasons people may choose to follow dairy-free diets – I personally love some of the vegan cheese options available too!

However if you’re avoiding cheese because you suspect an intolerance, don’t cut it all out yet – evidence suggests you maybe able to increase your tolerance threshold.

Here are my top tips:

  1. Try eating dairy as part of a meal, rather than on its own.

  2. Having small amounts regularly may actually help increase your tolerance – we think this is possibly through your gut microbes adapting, it may even act as a prebiotic.

  3. Fermented milk products typically contain less lactose compared to non-fermented, thanks to the microbes that eat some of it.

What cheeses fit the low lactose bill?

Hard and mature cheeses are your best bet – parmesan, mozarella, brie and camembert all have almost no lactose. If you like something a little stronger, go blue too for some extra microbes!

So there you have it. All you need to know to enjoy your cheese boards (in moderation)


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