Can you be lactose intolerant but still eat cheese?

If you’re lactose intolerant, it feels like everyone in the world enjoys a good milkshake or ice cream cone except for you. And don’t even get me started on nachos loaded with cheese sauce (sigh). With that said, have you ever wondered if there’s any chance that you can still indulge in your favorite cheesy dishes despite being lactose intolerant? The short answer is yes! However, before we jump to more exciting bits of this article let’s first understand what milk and dairy products contain.

What does Milk Contain?

Milk contains two main types of proteins — casein and whey. It also contains sugar (lactose), fat, vitamins A and D, calcium, potassium along with traces of other micronutrients (talk about a nutrient-dense liquid!). When we consume milk or any other dairy product made from cow’s milk such as cheese, buttercream etc., our body breaks down those nutrients into individual molecules to extract energy from them.

What Happens During Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance results when the bowel doesn’t produce quite enough lactase – an enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose – which then floats undigested through our digestive system until bacteria start munching on them releasing gas causing bloating & abdominal pain while digesting(literally!). Oops! So much science-y jargon..I hope all these terms are making sense because they will come up several times throughout this article

There are varying degrees of severity when it comes to tolerance levels towards lactose. Some folks experience mild symptoms — perhaps a little bit uncomfortable but manageable after taking some over-the-counter medication (Go pills!). In contrast,& cruelly enough others just aren’t able enjoy any form of dairy without consequences… poo-eu 😔

Wait, what is cheese?

Before we plunge into our main topic, let’s take some time to appreciate this highly revered dairy by-product (and my personal favorite😉). Cheese is a product made from the milk of cows, goats, and sheep (and sometimes even buffalo!) through a process called coagulation. The casein proteins in milk solidify when introduced to acidic or enzymatic substances converting it from liquid form into curds(gel-like consistency)which are further processed into cheeses.

Can You Eat Cheese If You’re Lactose Intolerant?

The answer is a little more complicated than just “yes” or “no.” So if you’re lactose intolerant and trying to determine your fate with cheese — fret not! Here’s everything you need to know about enjoying this creamy treat without suffering for hours.

What Type of Cheeses Should You Avoid If You’re Lactose Intolerant?

Some types of cheeses can have higher levels of residual lactose- typically aged less than 90 days, such as feta ,ricotta and brie while others come out unscathed during that period like Parmesan so they would be perfect choices for those wanting low-lactase options.

A table on Lactose concentration:

Type Of Cheese Grams per 1oz
Parmesan 0g
Muenster .1-.9
Ricotta .1-2.3
Feta 2.5-4g

These numbers will give you an idea but keep in mind that severity level may vary on an individualistic basis.

There are also goat and sheep milk-based products which contain significantly less lactose compared cow-milk-based products since these animals produce different variants of whey protein known as alpha and beta difference which interact differently with digestive enzymes compared to cow milk products.

What Else Affects Lactose Tolerance?

It’s worth noting that everybody has different tolerance levels towards lactose. Also, depends on amount of lactase in their system while number of bacteria present as well as how it interacts with various additives(e.g. sugar alternatives) that make dairy foods so yummy (why though!).

How To Build Your Cheese-Tolerant Gut

If you’re a cheese-lover looking for solutions to better digest your faves..(Join the club!), there are several ways(painful tho) to build up your gut – from eating aged cheeses that naturally have less lactose, including probiotics in your diet(and not over doing them either), even using supplements and simply starting out with small portions can all help grow more tolerant towards awesome cheesy goodness!


At the end of this pseudo-scientific adventure we learned some fun facts about what’s happening inside our intestines when we indulge too much daily-laden goodies (sigh)and discovered that somebody who’s predominantly lactose intolerant doesn’t have to halt life-long love-affairs with their favorite cheesus. Always keep an open mind when trying new types enjoyed at café tables near & far!

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