Is It OK to Drink Milk If I'm Lactose Intolerant?

I'm lactose intolerant and I love milk, but I don't like lactose-free milk. Is it still OK to have my regular milk even if I get a bellyache?
– Jacob*

Lactose intolerance is a common problem. Lactose-free milk does have a slightly different taste than regular milk, and not everyone likes it.

Drinking regular milk probably won't do you any physical harm — aside from the belly pain, gas, and other side effects. But lactose intolerance can get worse as people grow older, which means the cramps, bloating, and diarrhea could also become more uncomfortable.

If you want to drink regular milk, you can try products that help break down lactose (available in pharmacies and other stores), which seem to work for some people. You can take a capsule when you eat dairy products or put drops into the milk. It also can help to drink small amounts of milk at a time, and to only drink milk with a meal, not on its own. Ask your doctor for advice on what's right for you.

If you decide to avoid milk products, make sure you get calcium and vitamin D from other sources.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: July 2010

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