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  • Writer's pictureKathy Ozakovic

The Lowdown on Lactose and Yoghurt

Should I be eating dairy? - A common question I am asked by my clients. It's a loaded question. It depends on a number of factors and leads to investigation. The fact that a person is asking - tells me they have doubts and we know beliefs affect digestion (refer to Dr Alia Crum's research). Most humans cease to produce lactase after weaning and as a result become lactose intolerant. It is, therefore, not surprising that as adults, as much as 75% of the world's human population is intolerant to ingested dietary lactose. Does this mean you have to avoid dairy altogether? Keep reading below to find out.



Lets clear up some terminology first:

Lactose: the main carbohydrate in milk, lactose is a naturally occurring disaccharide (sugar) made up of glucose and galactose

Lactase: the enzyme that breaks down lactose to glucose and galactose in the small intestine

Lactose intolerance: a condition resulting from a lactase deficiency, with gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and/or diarrhoea following lactose intake

Lactose malabsorption: incomplete digestion and absorption of lactose in the small intestine, resulting in symptoms of lactose intolerance


All yoghurt contains live bacteria cultures BUT not all yoghurt have probiotics.

My response to the question of dairy is usually another set of questions including: How do you feel after drinking milk? Is it the same after eating yoghurt? Have you noticed any differences or patterns? What are you concerned about? I also take into consideration any existing intolerances and autoimmune conditions to guide the person in decision making.


MYTH: Lactose intolerance is a serious medical condition.

TRUTH: Whilst symptoms are unpleasant, they are not usually dangerous. Each individual will have their own level of tolerance of dairy foods. If you are experiencing digestive discomfort after consuming dairy foods, we need to distinguish whether the problem is lactose intolerance, A1 protein intolerance or other adverse reaction.


Lactose malabsorption may occur as a result of other undiagnosed food intolerances, allergies or medical conditions causing inflammation of the gut. This is commonly referred to as secondary lactose intolerance. Please do not self diagnose yourself with secondary lactose intolerance now that you know about it. Rather, be open to discussing and investigating what is going on with your health professional (hello, my name is Kathy and I am a dietitian and wellness coach specialising in gut health).


It is commonly assumed that discomfort after ingesting conventional milk is due to lactose intolerance, lactose might not be the cause of some people's post-dairy digestive discomfort. Some people may have a sensitivity to A1 protein rather than the lactose itself. Hence the development and now widely available A2 milk.


It is important to recognise that lactose intolerance and milk allergy is not the same.

Lactose intolerance refers to gastrointestinal symptoms caused by the incomplete digestion of the milk sugar lactose, due to a lack of lactase enzyme and can be improved with the digestive enzyme lactase. Cow's milk protein allergy is an immune response to the protein in cow's milk, and requires strict avoidance of all dairy products. Around 2% of infants are allergic to cow's milk, with most children outgrowing their allergy by 3-5 years of age. True lactose intolerance in early childhood is rare.



Myth: if you can't drink milk because of lactose intolerance, you'll likely also struggle with yoghurt

TRUTH: Even many of those with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate around 12g of lactose, or 1 cup of milk per day. This may be better tolerated if consumed over the day. A serve of yoghurt contains less lactose than a serving of milk (about 5 - 10g) and is often better tolerated. The good bacteria in yoghurt assists with digesting the lactose. Therefore, making sure you are consuming a good quality yoghurt, kefir, filmjolk with these good bacteria is important to ensure easier digestion.


Yoghurt is low in lactose and actually found to be beneficial in people with lactose intolerance. Try small amounts if you are worried. It is a little bit of trial and error. Try a bit of yoghurt with fruit or cereal.


All yoghurt contains live bacteria cultures BUT not all yoghurt have probiotics. How come? Well, to be classified as a probiotic the bacteria needs to be live and beneficial to the host (human) in adequate dosages. Most Australian's are missing out on yoghurts' benefits due to the fear of lactose.



Flavours can help to increase yoghurt palatability for children, adolescence and elderly in particular. However, if worried about added sugar, not sure which yoghurt is best (apart from asking me for a review) get the plain stuff and try adding some berries and a drizzle of manuka honey providing antioxidants and antibacterial properties.


Consumption of saturated fat from dairy foods such as yoghurt is NOT associated with the risk of heart disease. It's always a 'bigger picture' thing. Furthermore, low fat and fat free yoghurts without added sugars are widely available and recommended for anyone over the age of 2yo! Low fat yoghurts have upwards from 50% less saturated fats than your oat, coconut and soy yoghurt as well as more protein. My go to brands to recommend are YoPro, Chobabni, Jalna and Vaalia.


Yoghurt consumption is associated with REDUCED adiposity. One serving of yoghurt per day showed a protective effect of up to 28% in waist circumference when compared to those who did not consume yoghurt. This effect may be explained by the protein content of yoghurt which aids in better appetite control and satiety compared to carbohydrates and fats. As well as whey and casein playing a role in metabolic regulation by stimulating hormones that regulate food intake and glucose uptake.


Yoghurt consumption is associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. If sugars have not been added yoghurt will be low GI because of the lactose, and therefore a healthier snack alternative to discretionary foods (unless you're choosing the options with cartoon advertisements).



So, what other potential benefits are you missing out on?

I want to highlight SYNBIO®100 in particular because of the extensive research it has undergone. SYNBIO®100 consist of two proven probiotic strains: Lactobacillus rhamnosus IMC501 and Lactobacillus paracasei IMC502. These two strains of bacteria were discovered and extensively researched in Italy over the last two decades.


You will find SYNBIO® in Jalna pot set Lactose Free Yoghurt. This combination has been shown to:

- Improve intestinal microbiota and bowel health (over 4 week daily consumption)

- Positively affects bowel health and helps improve symptoms related to bowel health and wellbeing including regularity, bloating, stool volume, feeling of incomplete defecation ( 12 weeks)

- Increases beneficial bacteria and plasma antioxidant levels, which neutralises the effects of reactive oxygen species formed through physical activity (over 4 weeks)

- Reduced cold symptoms and fatigue in male athletes (over 12 weeks)

- Can alleviate the allergy symptoms caused by house dust mites (6 months)



CLINICAL RESEARCH REFERENCES:

  • Coman et al., Knowledge and acceptance of functional foods: a preliminary study on influence of a symbiotic fermented milk on athlete health. International Journal of Probiotics and Probiotics, 2017 (in press); 12 (1).

  • Coman et al., Effect of buckwheat flour and oat bran on growth and cell viability f the probiotic strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus IMC 501, Lactobacillus paracasei IMC 502 and their combination SYNBIO®, in symbiotic fermented milk. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 2013; 167: 261-8.

  • Verdenelli et al., Probiotic proprieties of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus paracasei isolated from human faeces. Eur J Nutr. 2009; 48: 355-63.

  • Cecchini et al., Effects of synbiotics on house dust mite allergic symptoms: a baseline-controlled open-label study. International Journal of Probiotics & Prebiotics. 2016.

  • Verdenelli et al., Influence of a combination of two potential probiotic strains, Lactobacillus rhamnosus IMC 501 and Lactobacillus paracasei IMC 502 on bowel habits of healthy adults. Applied Microbiology. 2011; 52: 596-602.

  • Silvi et al., Probiotic-enriched foods and dietary supplement containing SYNBIO® positively affects bowel habits in healthy adults: an assessment using standard statistical analysis and Support Vector Machines. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014; 65 (8): 994-1002.

  • Martarelli et al., Effect of probiotic intake on oxidant and antioxidant parameters in plasma of athletes during intense exercise training. Curr microbiol. 2011; 62: 1689-96.

  • Verdenelli et al., Effect of the probiotic combination SYNBIO® on respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms in athletes. Prebiotics & Probiotics directory. 2011;13-6.

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Did you find this blog helpful and informative? Tag & Share with your friends who would love it too! Sign up for my Free NuFit Wellness Newsletter to stay in the loop. Attend my Wellness Workshops. Promoting consciousness in food choices helping people heal. Dietitian & Wellness Coach, Health Presenter, Gut Health Specialist - Kathy Ozakovic.


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KEYWORDS: Lactose, yoghurt, bloating, dairy, intolerance, allergy, milk, probiotics, gut, health



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