Cheese You Can Eat if You’re Lactose Intolerant

A Healthier Michigan

| 3 min read

If drinking milk or eating dairy products puts your digestive tract into overload with bloating, diarrhea, and gas, you may be lactose intolerant. It’s a common condition in the U.S., where more than a third of the population is lactose intolerant, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The percentage is even higher in certain ethnic groups, such as African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans.
Lactose is a sugar that is naturally found in milk and milk products, like cheese or ice cream. With lactose intolerance, digestive symptoms are caused by lactose malabsorption, a condition in which your small intestine cannot digest, or break down, all the lactose you eat or drink. Low levels of the enzyme lactase is most often the culprit for the malabsorption, as it is responsible for breaking down lactose in the body.
If you're among the growing number of individuals who grapple with lactose intolerance, the world of dairy might seem like a culinary minefield. However, the good news is that you don't have to bid farewell to the joy of cheese altogether. There are cheese options that are kind to lactose-sensitive stomachs.

Cheese for the Lactose Intolerant

At the heart of the lactose-intolerant-friendly cheese selection lies an array of choices that can cater to your taste preferences while keeping digestive discomfort at bay. These cheeses typically undergo processes that significantly reduce lactose content or are naturally low in lactose. Here's a delightful assortment for you to explore:
  • Hard Aged Cheeses: Opt for aged varieties such as cheddar, Swiss, or Parmesan. The aging process breaks down lactose, making these cheeses more tolerable for the lactose sensitive.
  • Brie and Camembert: Soft and creamy, these French favorites are often well-tolerated by those with lactose intolerance due to their lower lactose content.
  • Goat and Sheep Cheese: These alternatives to traditional cow's milk cheese often contain less lactose and boast distinct flavors. Try feta, pecorino, or goat cheese for a unique taste experience.
  • Lactose-Free Cheese: Available in many supermarkets, these cheeses are specifically crafted for those with lactose intolerance. They offer the same cheesy goodness without the digestive distress.
  • Swiss Emmental: Known for its nutty and slightly sweet flavor, Emmental is another excellent choice for the lactose intolerant. Its low lactose content makes it a safe and tasty option.

The Science Behind Lactose-Friendly Cheese

Scientific studies have explored the realm of lactose intolerance and cheese consumption. A study conducted by the Journal of Dairy Science revealed that individuals with lactose intolerance could often tolerate certain cheeses without adverse effects. The fermentation and aging processes were found to significantly reduce lactose levels, making these cheeses more digestible.
The good news is that embracing a lactose-intolerant-friendly cheese diet doesn't mean sacrificing flavor or culinary joy. Whether you're unwinding at home, hosting a gathering, or simply craving a cheesy snack, these options allow you to savor the richness of cheese without compromising your digestive well-being.
Lactose intolerance is different from a milk allergy. That occurs when the immune system reacts to proteins in milk, while lactose intolerance involves difficulty digesting the sugar in milk. If you suspect you have lactose intolerance, consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and guidance on managing your diet.
View post on Instagram

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.