What is Lactose Intolerance?

Milk and other dairy products (e.g. yoghurt, ice cream and custard) contain a sugar called lactose. Normally, the body breaks down lactose with the help of the enzyme, lactase. Without enough lactase, a person can experience symptoms of malabsorption such as abdominal pain and diarrhoea. This is known as lactose intolerance or lactase deficiency.

The severe form of this condition – known as primary lactose intolerance (where the infant does not produce lactase from birth) – is less common. Primary lactose intolerance occurs more commonly in adults as a result of the lactase levels decreasing with age. Secondary lactose intolerance can occur temporarily after a bout of gastroenteritis, for example, but often improves after several weeks as the lining of the gut heals. It can also arise as a result of injury to the small intestine (e.g. surgery, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or altered anatomy).


Many people with lactose intolerance have a particular tolerance level, which allows them to consume some lactose with minimal symptoms. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Flatulence
  • Diarrhoea

Symptoms of lactose intolerance are often confused with symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Not all people with IBS are lactose intolerant; however they are often intolerant to large amounts of fat. This can be confused with lactose intolerance as some dairy foods are also high in fat. Lactose intolerance is best diagnosed with a hydrogen breath test.


Most people with lactose intolerance can handle small amounts of lactose. Some dairy products (e.g. cheese, cream, butter and margarine) are naturally low in lactose and may be tolerated in moderate amounts by people with lactose intolerance. Milk and yoghurt are important sources of many nutrients (e.g. calcium), therefore lactose-free varieties of milk and yoghurt are a good choice. However, some people are more sensitive and must avoid lactose completely.

  • Hidden lactose – Foods that may contain hidden lactose include: Biscuits and cakes, processed breakfast cereals, cheese sauce, creamy soups, custard, milk chocolate, pancakes, scrambled eggs, quiche, breads and margarine.

How can ORGRAN products assist?

The entire range of ORGRAN products are suitable for people with dairy sensitivity. ORGRAN products are ideal as they are free from dairy, egg, lactose, casein and milk. For those wanting to follow general principles of healthy eating, you can enjoy the benefits of alternative grains with our range of pastas, crispibreads, bread and baking mixes, breakfast cereals and biscuits.