How to enjoy dairy with lactose intolerance or a sensitive stomach

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When faced with bloating, abdominal pain or other digestive health concerns, many will make lifestyle changes and this can include cutting dairy from the diet.

This isn’t necessarily a healthy choice. In fact, it can have worrying long-term consequences.

Milk, yoghurt and cheese can play an important role in healthy ageing. By cutting out an entire food group, you miss out on dairy’s nutrient package shown to reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes – even certain cancers.[1]

How can you reclaim the dairy foods you love and optimise your health now and into the future?

By following these simple, important steps, you can work delicious dairy products back into your life – without upsetting the digestive system.

Important first steps:
Speak with your GP

Digestive discomfort can have any number of causes. It can be triggered be stress; it can be a side effect of medication (or a combination of medications); it could be a simple lack of exercise; it could be a symptom of a broader health issue.

Symptom relief is important but because symptoms often come and go, it can be difficult to judge if lifestyle changes are helping. Some guidance from a qualified professional will help you better understand the root of the problem – and give you more peace of mind while making the following helpful adjustments.

If you’re already on a dairy-free diet:
Build up your tolerance with the 21-day “Milk Drinking Intervention”

If you have quit milk, here is a gentle way to reintroduce it into your diet.

A recent study found the following simple three-week strategy to be very effective:


By starting with half a glass of milk with a meal and working upward, you can condition the digestive system into accepting lactose without overwhelming it.  

Participants in the study who completed this intervention, saw an improvement in symptoms and went on to enjoy other dairy foods like cheese and yoghurt. 

If you feel bloated or uncomfortable after eating dairy:
Change the timing and routine of your servings

If you believe your digestive system reacts poorly to dairy products, the decision to “do dairy differently” can make all the difference.

The below three steps are a great way to gain a better understanding of how your digestive system accepts dairy products, helping you find a comfort level that’s right for you.


If you have been diagnosed as lactose intolerant:
Adjust your dairy intake 

Lactose intolerance doesn’t mean quitting dairy entirely, but simply finding a new balance: changing the timing, trying different products, or having dairy with other foods. Lactose-free milk is a great alternative, if necessary, and hard cheeses have virtually no lactose.[3]


Have you tried any of these helpful techniques? Share your dairy success story in the comments below!


[1] National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.
[2] O’Connor L, Eaton T, Savaiano D. Improving Milk Intake in Milk-Averse Lactose Digesters and Maldigesters. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2015;47(4):325-330.e1.
[3] National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

Rethink Removing Dairy For symptom relief, people often unnecessarily cut out or limit dairy foods from their diet. For more information on dairy and digestive health, please follow the links below: