What is lactose?

  • Article
  • December 20, 2017

Lactose is the natural sugar in milk and other dairy foods made from milk like yogurt and ice cream that forms when two other sugars, glucose and galactose, join together.

For the body to digest lactose, it uses a natural enzyme called lactase to break lactose down into these two sugars. If your body doesn’t make enough lactase, you may not be able to break down or absorb lactose properly, which can lead to symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Roughly one in ten U.S. adults reports having lactose intolerance. While some people think they need to cut dairy from their food choices, it’s best to first talk to your doctor to confirm lactose intolerance. If the diagnosis is confirmed, then there are a number of tips you can try to continue to enjoy dairy. For example, choose natural cheeses that have minimal lactose, enjoy Greek yogurt since yogurt with live and active cultures help digest lactose or opt for lactose-free cow’s milk, which is still real milk.

Here are some more of our resources to learn more about lactose intolerance: