a block of cheeseLactose is the main sugar in milk. The inability to break down lactose is due to a lack of, or reduction in, the production of lactase enzyme in the small intestine.

The result is that lactose is not absorbed by the body but remains undigested in the gut. This leads to digestive upset with symptoms such as bloating and diarrhoea. Goat’s and sheep’s milk also contain lactose and are therefore unsuitable. (Some individuals who are lactose intolerant may be able to consume sheep or goats milk depending on their sensitivity). 

However, if you treat milk with the enzyme lactase in advance of drinking it, this should break down all the lactose present into smaller more digestible sugars rendering the milk perfectly okay to drink. 

A 30 minute daily exposure to sunlight will ensure adequate vitamin D which is used to help absorb calcium from the diet. It is advisable to take a lactose-free calcium supplement if you are taking less than three portions of dairy or dairy alternatives daily.


Ingredients to avoid include:

  • Milk
  • Lactic acid
  • Milk protein
  • Casein
  • Nougat
  • Milk solids
  • Whey powder/protein
  • Albumin
  • Whey syrup
  • Rennet
  • Lactose (milk sugar)
  • Curds
  • Yoghurt
  • Caseinates
  • Lactoglobulins

Foods to avoid include:

  • Cheeses
  • Butter and butter-like spreads
  • Skim milk
  • Evaporated milk
  • Bakery goods such as cakes, buns, pastries, biscuits etc
  • Chocolate
  • Instant pudding mixes
  • Salad dressings
  • Sweets
  • Ice-cream
  • Butter and cream
  • Margarine
  • Whole milk
  • Instant deserts
  • Baking powder
  • Condensed milk
  • Creamed foods
  • Yorkshire pudding
  • Custard
  • Cake toppings
  • Powder/dried milk
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Cake mixes
  • Junket (desert made of flavoured, sweetened curds)
  • Mashed potato

Foods high in oxalate should be limited or avoided as these reduce the absorption of calcium. These foods include beetroot, nuts, chocolate, rhubarb, spinach and tea.

Eat instead

Alternatives which can be used in baking, over breakfast cereals, tea, coffee and also in the making of curries, sauces and smoothies:

  • Rice milk
  • Oat milk (high in calcium, good for a drink or over cereal)
  • Almond milk/ hazelnut milk
  • Coconut milk – good for sauces etc
  • Soy milk - Soy is a good alternative when wanting a treat. Soy yoghurts are widely available along with soy deserts, ice-cream and soy chocolate flavoured drinks.
  • Lactofree (made from semi-skimmed cows milk and is gently filtered to remove the milk sugars)

Individuals who suffer from lactose intolerance can obtain their calcium from various other food sources. The following foods are good, non-dairy sources of calcium:

  • Canned sardines
  • Canned pink salmon
  • Tofu
  • Kidney beans
  • Tofu
  • Blackberries
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Almonds
  • Nut milks
  • Seaweed
  • Enriched soy milk
  • Spinach (cooked)
  • Broccoli
  • Lentils (cooked)
  • Pears
  • Kale (form of cabbage)
  • Cauliflower
  • Melon
  • Swede
  • Oat milk
  • Pilchards (small, oily fish)
  • Leeks
  • Cabbage
  • Dates and raisins
  • Apples
  • Green beans
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Tempeh (good source of protein made from soybeans)
  • Hazelnuts
  • Baked beans