Dairy allergies and intolerance can be tricky to navigate when you first learn. But I promise by the end of the post you’ll easily be able to identify the differences between dairy free and lactose free.
Dairy free indicates a product that is made without any milk or milk based ingredients; While lactose free is still a dairy product (made from mammal milk) that has the added enzyme of lactase to break down the sugar called lactose.
What Is Dairy?
The definition of dairy includes milk/cream and any foods made from the milk of mammals (1). Dairy products are normally made from cow or goats milk. The major dairy products include milk, cream, cheese, yogurt and sour cream.
What Does Dairy Free Mean?
A product containing this labeling, contains no milk or milk derivates. Which means it is devoid of dairy (milk from mammals). I am thankful that since the emergence of dairy free products, there are more options for us with allergies and lactose intolerance to choose from.
What Is Lactose?
It is a sugar found in milk. Lactose is formed by two sugars called glucose and galactose. Lactase converts lactose into the two separate sugars that your body can then digest.
What does lactose free mean?
A food product that is labeled “lactose free”, is still a dairy product. It simply means that the enzyme lactase has been added to aid in digestion. Lactase hydrolyzes lactose into the two simple sugars, glucose and galactose. These sugars can then be digested by people with lactose intolerance.
are dairy free and lactose free the same?
Now that we know the differences, we know that dairy free and lactose free are not the same. A dairy free product does not contain any dairy or dairy derivatives (milk from mammals).
Lactose free is still a dairy product but does not contain lactose. Or it has the added enzyme lactase to break down the lactose and help with digestion.
Allergies/Intolerances And Lactose Free
Many lactose intolerant people can consume lactose free products. While some cannot because of other proteins in milk that can cause gastrointestinal problems.
A lactose intolerant person lacks the enzyme needed to properly digest lactose. It is normally broken down in the small intestine by an enzyme called lactase.
For myself, I avoid lactose free products. But you need to determine with your healthcare provider if they are right for you.
If you have a dairy allergy, lactose free products are not for you. They are still completely dairy.