Can a lactose-intolerant person eat yogurt?

People that cannot tolerate dairy products tend to shy away from fermented dairy, like yogurt, as well. Whether that is necessary is a topic that many question. Here, Sarah explains just what causes lactose intolerance and what you may be able to do to help tolerate yogurt, kefir and more.

Posted by Sarah

Folks with lactose intolerance usually avoid dairy products, including fermented dairy as well. But, the benefits of healthy bacteria found in vegetable ferments are found in home dairy ferments. So, should a lactose-intolerant person eat yogurt and other dairy ferments? Or, should they avoid them?

It depends.

Lactose is one of the naturally occurring sugars in milk. The natural bacteria responsible for your awesome home ferment, feed on the milk sugars. Thus, home fermented milk will have a lower lactose content compared to that of whole milk. However, depending on the sourness of your ferment, it could have more or less lactose still remaining. A very sour ferment will likely have less residual lactose compared to a sweeter ferment.

Can a lactose-intolerant person eat yogurt?

While lactose may still be present in your home fermented kefir, yogurt or another dairy, lactose-consuming bacteria will also be present. This means that the mild consumption of home-fermented dairy will benefit your gut microbiome and make it easier for you to digest whatever lactose remains in fermented dairy.  The absence of the enzyme lactase, which your gut needs to digest milk sugar, causes lactose intolerance. Beneficial bacteria can help compensate for the missing enzyme, and improve your gut health over time.

To mitigate the lactose content of your home dairy ferments, take the ferment to the very tart “sour” stage. The longer the dairy ferments, the less lactose it is likely to contain. Similarly, the shorter the ferment the more lactose it is likely to contain.

Always consult with a physician

If you are very sensitive to lactose, I recommend consulting with a doctor before introducing any dairy products, even home dairy ferments, into your diet. If you are only mildly sensitive, I recommend introducing dairy ferments with caution. Remember, home ferments contain live bacteria while a store-bought ferment may have been pasteurized, and thus no longer contain the active beneficial microbes.

For someone who has long avoided dairy, you can try introducing home dairy ferments a little at a time. Try one or two spoons of yogurt or kefir in a day. Then, gradually build up to a whole serving over several weeks. This will allow your body to adapt slowly while you analyze how your body feels, making sure you are not having an allergic reaction.

However, if you are trying a home dairy ferment and experience any allergic reactions, stop. Home fermented veggies have many of the same beneficial bacteria and enzymes as a dairy ferment, but minus the lactose. Dairy ferments can be very tasty, but you don’t need dairy to get your daily dose of healthy and beneficial microbes.

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If you have never tried creating your own delicious yogurtkefir or creme fraiche, Fermentools has the recipes and instructions for you. And to get the best in fermenting equipment, visit our store.

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Sarah Dalziel is passionate about DIY skills, knowledge, and self-sufficiency. She was homeschooled K-BSc and enjoys questioning, researching, and writing about hands-on skills and preparedness. Ethnobotany, natural dyes, and self-sufficiency fascinate her. If she isn’t writing about them, you’ll find her dipping yarn into a steaming dye pot, or stirring up a batch of woad pigmented soap. Sarah blogs at wearingwoad.com, a natural dye and fiber skills blog, and also at sarahdalzielmedia.com, an interdisciplinary skills and writing blog.

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