Let’s Talk About Dairy & The Low FODMAP Diet
It’s a myth that the low FODMAP diet is a dairy free diet! There are many dairy products like lactose free milk or yoghurt, butter, and certain cheeses that you can enjoy while on the diet. Also remember that dairy is an important source of calcium and shouldn’t be cut out of your diet unless a medical practitioner or dietitian advises you to.
|Low FODMAP Dairy Products|
|Lactose free milk
Lactose free yoghurt*
Lactose free ice cream*
Cheese: brie, camembert, cheddar, colby, cottage, feta, harvati, pecorino, mozzarella, swiss
*check for added high FODMAP ingredients
(Table information sourced from: Monash App, 2016)
Please see the Monash Low FODMAP app for serving size guidelines.
Why are some dairy products problematic?
Some dairy products contain high amounts of lactose. Lactose is the ‘D’ in the FODMAP acronym, and it is a ‘disaccharide’ which is when two sugar units are joined together.
In order to effectively absorb lactose we need a special enzyme called lactase (1). This enzyme unzips the disaccharide and breaks it into the two sugar units: glucose and galactose (2). These sugars can then be easily absorbed in our small intestine.
What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance occurs when we do not have enough lactase to break down the lactose in our small intestine (1 2). The lactose is then fermented in the large intestine by our gut bacteria (2). This can cause bloating, abdominal pain or cramps, gas, diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting (3 4). Lactose intolerance symptoms can occur quite quickly, often after 30 minutes to 2 hours of consuming the lactose (2 3).
Does everyone have lactase enzymes?
Most people are born with lactase enzymes, however, the number of lactase enzymes in our small intestine decline as we age (4). This means it is not uncommon for adults to become lactose intolerant. Additionally, some ethnicities like Asian, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and American Indians have naturally lower lactase levels and higher levels of lactose intolerance (1 2 ). Also if you suffer from other gastrointestinal issues, like coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, then lactose intolerance can be more common (4).
Each person has a different level of lactase enzymes, which means some people can tolerate more lactose than others.
Is there anything you can take to improve lactose absorption?
Lactase drops and lactase enzyme tablets can help you improve lactose absorption (Lacteeze, 2016). Lactase enzyme tablets are taken before lactose products are consumed. Whereas lactase enzyme drops are mixed into liquid dairy products (like milk or yoghurt) and it breaks down the sugars over a 24-hour period (Lacteeze, 2016). This process is how lactose free milk is made.
Be aware of sneaky FODMAPs in lactose free dairy products!
Dairy products like lactose free yoghurt or ice cream often contain sneaky FODMAPs like inulin, chicory root fibre, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, high FODMAP fruit, and agave syrup. So make sure you check the labels carefully.
How do you figure out if dairy products are low lactose & low FODMAP?
According to Monash trained accredited practising dietitian, Joanna Baker, the low FODMAP threshold limit for lactose is 1 gram. This means if your dairy product does not have any added sugar, sweeteners, or fruit and contains 1 gram or less of sugar per serve then it would be considered low FODMAP. In nutrition labels lactose is listed under carbohydrates or sugar.
Also keep in mind that many people with lactose intolerance can consume up to 12g to 15g of lactose per day, so it is worth testing to see if you can tolerate small amounts of high lactose foods (2 5).
What are the lactose & FODMAP content of different dairy products?
The below list has been prepared using the NUTTAB Online Searchable Database and the Monash Low FODMAP app. For extensive information on the lactose content of cheese please read my article: What Cheeses are Low FODMAP?
|Type of Dairy Product||Serving Size||Lactose (grams)||FODMAP Rating|
|Cream (pure, regular fat)||100g
63ml (1/ cup)
|Sour cream||100g||2.5g||Moderate FODMAP|
|63g (60ml or 1/4 cup)||1.6g|
|Whipped cream||100ml||1g||Low FODMAP|
|125ml (1/2 cup)||1.25g|
|125ml (1/2 cup)||7g|
|A2 milk||125ml (1/2 cup)||N/A||High FODMAP|
|Evaporated milk||100ml||10.7g||High FODMAP|
|125ml (1/2 cup)||13.38g|
|Full cream cow’s milk||100ml||6.3g||High FODMAP|
|125ml (1/2 cup)||7.8g|
|Reduce fat cow’s milk||100ml||6.1g||High FODMAP|
|125ml (1/2 cup)||7.6g|
|Skim cow’s milk||100ml||5g||High FODMAP|
|125ml (1/2 cup)||6.25g|
|Sweetened condensed cow’s milk||100ml||14.7g||High FODMAP|
|60ml (1/2 cup)||8.82g|
|Lactose Free Milk||250ml (1 cup)||Less than 1g||Low FODMAP|
|Regular cow milk powder||100g||38.3g||Suspected moderate to high FODMAP depending on serving size.|
|1 tbsp (4.5g)||1.72g|
|Skim cow milk powder||100g||50.4||Suspected moderate to high FODMAP depending on serving size.|
|1 tbsp (4.5g)||2.27g|
|Natural low fat yogurt||100ml||5.3g||High FODMAP|
|½ tub (85g)||4.5g|
|Natural regular yoghurt||100ml||5g||High FODMAP|
|½ tub (85g)||4.25g|
|Natural Indian yoghurt||63g (60ml or ¼ cup)||N/A||High FODMAP|
|Lactose free yoghurt||1 tub (170g)||Less than 1g||Low FODMAP|
|125ml (1/2 cup)||5.13g|
|Regular fat vanilla ice cream||100ml||3.3g||Moderate FODMAP|
|1 scoop (44g)||1.4g|