Lactose Sensitivity and Why Milk Causes Gas


Why milk causes fartingLactose sensitivity is a very common cause of digestive problems. A person who is sensitive to the lactose in milk will often experience symptoms such as bloating, intestinal cramps and excessive gas after consuming dairy products.

Ahead is what causes lactose sensitivity and intolerance, how to know if it’s affecting you, what foods and drinks contain lactose and how to greatly reduces symptoms if you do have milk or one of the many other sources of lactose.

What Is Lactose Sensitivity?

Lactose is a type of sugar found in cow’s milk and other milk products. It is made of a glucose and a galactose molecule.

Lactose should be broken down in your upper intestine by the enzyme lactase. As infants, most of us produce a lot of lactase in our digestive systems and usually have no problems digesting milk.

As we get older though, usually around adolescence, the amount of the lactase enzyme that our bodies produce to break down lactose diminishes. This is quite normal, as milk is for infants and humans are the only animal that continues to try and drink it beyond infancy.

Just how sensitive you are to lactose depends on just how much lactase enzyme your digestive system is still producing.

As an example, some adults may be able to drink a glass of milk without any obvious side effects. Others may be able to have half a glass without discomfort, but any more than that will trigger symptoms.

For even more lactose sensitive people, even a splash of milk in their coffee can cause gastrointestinal distress. At this level, a person is considered lactose intolerant. Virtually any milk products or ingestion of lactose found in various other foods will quickly cause them problems.

Someone who is very lactose intolerant usually knows it, as they experience bloating, stomach cramps and excessive flatulence soon after having milk or most other dairy products.

More commonly, people have varying degrees of lactose sensitivity, making it more difficult to pinpoint milk, and its difficult to digest sugar, as the cause of their intestinal issues.

How Many People are Lactose Sensitive or Intolerant?

It’s estimated that around one third of Americans would be recognized as lactose intolerant. This figure can be misleading though as it depends greatly on your ethnic background.

Virtually all Native Americans and those of Asian descent have problems digesting the lactose in milk, around 75% of people of African and Caribbean descent have milk intolerance, and around half of Americans with Mediterranean heritage also show signs of lactose intolerance.

Only Americans of northern European descent have commonly developed the genetic mutation to deal with lactose and can drink milk regularly without experiencing problems like bloating, abdominal pain and gas. It’s estimated that only between 5% and 15% of these people would be considered truly lactose intolerant.

So while your background definitely plays a part in just how much dairy you can tolerate, the majority of adults do have a reduced ability to digest lactose.

Unfortunately, despite all the potential digestive problems with lactose, food manufacturers seem to find milk sugar a cheap and useful ingredient and it is added to a wide variety of processed products as we’ll see ahead. But first, why exactly does lactose cause gas?

Why Does Milk Make You Fart?

When your body isn’t producing enough of the lactase enzyme in your small intestine, lactose in the food you eat or the products you drink like milk pass through to your large intestine undigested.

Certain bacteria in your colon love milk sugar and will quickly go to work fermenting it. This process creates a lot of gas and, due to the high levels of protein in milk, it is usually much smellier flatulence than that produced by the fermentation of the raffinose in beans.

These extra gases in the gastrointestinal system can cause all sorts of problems and discomfort, from bloating and intestinal cramps and spasms, to diarrhea when pressure from flatus gas interferes with water absorption in the colon, and of course excessive flatulence.

In some respects, passing wind after drinking milk, and getting the gas out before it causes any more problems is the best thing that can happen. Not very comforting I know if it comes on during an office meeting or on a date.

This process usually happens quite quickly and some individuals can experience bloating and flatulence after drinking milk in as little as 15 to 20 minutes. If they are going to have symptoms, most people will usually experience them within an hour of having milk if they are lactose sensitive.

Which makes you wonder why, if lactose is such an obvious cause of bloating and flatulence and it happens so quickly, why are milk products and other sources of lactose still so popular? Why haven’t we worked out on a larger scale that milk makes you fart?

It’s likely many people can get away with a small amount of milk, perhaps the amount they splash on their cereal in the morning (though surely nutritious macadamia nut milk is a much better choice here).

But then, with their lactase enzyme stores depleted, any of the many other sources of lactose we’ll cover next, have the potential to cause gastrointestinal issues.

Since food containing lactose travels through the digestive tract much slower than liquid, it may be many hours before symptoms appear. Someone who can have milk in the morning without obvious problems, but then ends up gassy in the evening from the lactose rich lunch he ate, may never make the connection between the two.

What Foods and Drinks Contain Lactose?

Here’s a list of foods and drinks that contain lactose. You definitely want to avoid the products on this lactose list if you’re intolerant.

While milk is the most obvious source of lactose, there are many other potential culprits of flatulence and other intestinal problems caused by undigested milk sugar.

The majority of us though, with varying levels of lactose and milk sensitivity, would also do well to reduce our consumption of the following where possible to prevent bloating, abdominal cramps, flatulence and other symptoms caused by not breaking down the lactose sugar in milk.

  • All dairy milk, especially skim milk which has even higher levels of milk sugar, but all milk derived from cows or goats will contain lactose in some of the highest levels.
  • Protein powders made with whey can be a concentrated source of lactose and cause flatulence problems for many people.
  • Butter and all forms of cream contain less lactose than milk, but still enough to cause problems for the lactose intolerant or highly sensitive.
  • Cheese will generally contain less lactose the harder it is. So hard aged cheeses like Romano, parmesan or cheddar will have less milk sugar than softer cheeses like Camembert or mozzarella, which are generally higher in lactose.
  • Ice cream can unfortunately be particularly bad. Not only is it made from milk, but manufacturers have incentive to sweeten it even further with added milk sugar.
  • Yogurt, in theory should be lower in lactose as the beneficial bacteria predigests the milk sugar. Unfortunately, what passes for yogurt in the supermarket fridges these days is usually nothing more than sweetened, thickened milk with very little probiotic content. A good quality and unflavored traditional Greek or cultured yogurt will likely be much lower in lactose, but these can be difficult to find.
  • Canned soup is a less obvious source of lactose, but often quite a high one. Check the labels for any milk-based ingredients, but generally any cream-based soup will be full of lactose.
  • Savory snacks often contain milk powder which again contains lactose and anything cheese flavored will usually be especially high in flatulence causing milk sugar.
  • Sweets like milk chocolate (dark chocolate is much lower and healthier), cakes, puddings, cookies and particularly doughnuts are all potentially significant sources of lactose.
  • Sauces, gravies and salad dressings like mayonnaise can all contain lactose. You can check the labels for milk solids, milk powder, anything starting with whey and of course lactose itself.
  • Breakfast cereals are also sometimes made with milk powder or milk solids, though of course this pales into insignificance if you’re already eating them with a big bowl of cow’s milk.
  • Bread is another commonly eaten food that can contain lactose. The amount on its own may not cause problems, but as you can see with all the different products containing milk sugar, it’s all the more to ferment in the lower intestine.
  • Even processed meats like sausages and luncheon meat can have lactose in them, as can breaded or battered meats, and are worth avoiding for the lactose intolerant. Of course pizza with its combination of soft cheese, bread and often processed meats will be a triple whammy and usually high on the lactose scale.
  • Even birth control pills, headache tablets and some drugs and supplements contain lactose as an ingredient for some strange reason. Alone they are unlikely to have an effect, but if your body cannot produce any more lactase enzyme then it all adds up.

As you can see it’s a fairly extensive list of products with lactose in them. If you’re looking on food labels trying to avoid milk sugar you want to watch out for anything that says: milk powder, milk solids, milk protein, whey solids or protein, nonfat dried milk, casein, sodium caseinate and obviously lactose itself.

If there’s foods on there that you simply can’t see yourself living without then this may be a simple solution.

Lactose Intolerant Versus Lactose Sensitive

Lactose intolerance gas
For someone who is truly lactose intolerant it’s important to avoid as many foods as possible on the above list to prevent gastrointestinal problems.

It’s much more serious than just cramps, bloating and flatulence. Constantly dealing with the fermentation of lactose can leave your digestive system in a weakened state and lead to harmful bacterial overgrowth and lowered immunity.

For a person who is only slightly lactose sensitive, just avoiding milk itself may be enough to prevent all but occasional problems. This macadamia nut milk is a great alternative, high in important omega-3 fats and completely lactose-free.

Those with moderate lactose and milk sensitivity (and I’d include myself in this group) would want to avoid milk and generally some of the higher lactose containing foods like soft cheese, ice cream, supermarket yogurt, snacks with milk solids, creamy soups, pizza, doughnuts and milk-based sauces and gravies.

If you’d like to check for sure if you are lactose intolerant or on the higher scale of lactose sensitive then there is a simple test available from your GP called the ‘Lactose Intolerance Breath Test’.

How to Drink Milk without Farting

If you really can’t bear the thought of a life without flavored milk, ice cream and Camembert on crackers, there are lactase supplements that you can take to replace the milk sugar digestive enzymes your body is no longer making in large enough quantities.

Lactaid is the most well known of these, but these ones contain the same 9000 FCC (Food Chemical Codex) units of lactase per capsule as the highest strength Lactaid. At 180 capsules versus the usual 60 in Lactaid they are also about half the price and work just as well for me. Many in the reviews seem to agree.

I take them at the same time as an occasional ice cream or pizza and there’s none of the usual bloating, tummy rumbling or gas. It’s a good idea to take one of the silver blister packs with you if you think you could be having foods or drinks containing a lot of lactose and have them either just before or with your meal or milk based drink.

Beware of other cheaper brands of lactase enzyme caplets or chewables that only contain 1000 or 2000 FCC units. This won’t be enough for all but the lowest of lactose sensitivity and definitely not enough if you are lactose intolerant.

Millions of people in America have problems with the lactose in milk but don’t know it and experience abdominal bloating and cramps, excessive flatulence and other gastrointestinal problems regularly. Please share this page with your friends and let people know there is a solution.

Photo 1: Scott Robinson / Photo 2: David Joyce
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 47 comments
Minnie Singh

Very informative

Reply
James

Thanks Minnie

Reply
Shawshank

Thanks.. especially for the solution. I dont have to shun milk altogether now :-)

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James

Thanks for your positive comments!

Reply
parmbir dhaliwal

Drinking apple cider vinegar helps or makes it worse ? Does it triggers fermentation ?

Reply
James

Hi Parmbir,

I wouldn’t drink apple cider vinegar directly after milk but generally diluted ACV is healthy for the intestinal environment and may help reduce symptoms. Though it you are lactose sensitive the choices are really take something like this https://flatulencecures.com/go/fast-acting-lactase-caplets at the same time or avoid milk and milk products and additives.

Hope this helps,

Jim

Reply
Laura

Thank you so much! This is very informative and well explained!

Reply
Shameen Iqbal

I have severe chronic constipation I have gluten n lactose tolerance
Which having private tests soon as dont understand why my stomach is severely bloating makes me feel so sicl whicj causes my migraines to come ion everyday I am extremely fed up doctors arent of any help therefore any advice willbe helpful I have fennel seeds tbey dont seem to help and I am forever letting wind out

Reply
James

Thanks for your positive comments.

All the best,

Jim

Reply
chioma

Thank u Very much for this information.

Reply
s.c.goel

dear sir
It is very good efforts for giving good learning.But let me know that gastric problem can feel faint some time.
Regards

Reply
Fiona

Thanks! Your article explains why I’ve had all these problems. For 2 years I could never work out what was causing it. The cramps got so bad and the flatulence is so embarrassing. The tiniest bit of lactose sets it off!

Reply
Yaw

Very informative

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vivian

great page.so educative

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vicky

thanks so much,this is such an eye opener..very helpful too.

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Tyna

Thank you very much. This is quite informative.

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Estelle Stauffer

Very informative! Thank you!

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Dreas

I 8 pounds of whey protein powder is a terrible thing to waste. Thanks.

Reply
Jim

Hi Fiona,

Lactose really is a big problem for a lot of people. With all the digestive issues it causes it’s really surprising dairy products are still so popular.

All the best,

Jim

Reply
Jim

Hi Shameen,

Peppermint oil capsules before a meal are even stronger than fennel tea for severe bloating https://flatulencecures.com/how-to-make-farts-smell-better Hopefully your doctor or a holistic healer can diagnose the source of these problems so you have a better idea of how to treat it.

All the best,

Jim

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Amber

Is it at all possible for your body to produce too much lactase??

Reply
Sabri

Thanks a lot now i think i can solve my gas problem

Reply
DEEPAK

YOUR ARTICLE WAS AN EYE OPENER. I WAS UNABLE TO FIGURE OUT WHY I WAS HAVING THE FEELING OF BLOATING AND FLATULENCE.
NOW THAT I KNOW I SHALL BE TAKING DUE PRECAUTIONS.
THANKS.

Reply
Andy

If Lactaid isn’t effective, would you rule out a lactose intolerance?

I seem to get a lot of bloating and gas from dairy, especially ice cream, and yogurt. Sometimes I get away with minimal or seemingly no symptoms, other times it can be incredibly bad. I’ve tried taking Lactaid when I consume dairy, but it doesn’t appear to change results any.

Reply
Jim

Hi Andy,

Another possibility is the casein protein in milk, which some people also have a bad reaction to. I’d recommend switching to coconut milk. You can dilute it with half water to make it last longer. There is also coconut based ice cream available.

All the best,

Jim

Reply
Jim

Hi Deepak and thanks for your positive comments.

All the best,

Jim

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Jim

Hi Amber,

Children have alot but not that I’m aware of for adults. 75% are sensitive to lactose in some way and most will experience digestive issues in large enough amounts.

All the best,

Jim

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Nate

You all should drink Raw Milk. It’s straight form the cow’s nipple, its not processed like the milk we’re used to buying at the supermarkets. Only bad thing is the shelf life is half that of reg milk. Raw milk has natural bacteria that’ll digest the milk sugars. try it, you’ll be happy.

Reply
Krunal

Hi,

Thanks for this. I very hardly got the know about real cause of my gas problem. one evening I avoided my dinner and just had milk instead. and I hit a bulls eye!!! experiencing a log of gas and bloating problem that night. And that is how I got to know that its milk that is causing the problem.

And then google search leads me to your article.

Thanks man for sharing this!

Reply
Jim

Hi Krunal,

Thanks for your positive comments and I’m glad you discovered that lactose was causing your digestive problems. Please spread the word as I think a lot of people are unaware of this issue.

All the best,

Jim

Reply
Thiên thảo

Hi Jim
Thank for this article. Now i know the real cause to my gas problem. i wonder which times of the day is the best to drink milk to avoid gas problem and which food should i eat with?
Thank you

Reply
Jim

Hi there,

There isn’t really a best time, but perhaps by only drinking small quantities far apart you may be able to make enough lactase enzyme to handle the next dose of lactose. The worst is drinking a lot of milk all at once. That said, as it explains in the article https://flatulencecures.com/lactose-sensitivity-why-milk-causes-gas most people who aren’t from northern European ancestry are lactose senstive.

Hope this helps,

Jim

Reply
betty

does fennel tea help to relieve flatulence caused by dairy products

Reply
Jim

Hi Betty,

It can ease the cramps and bloating but generally won’t stop them happening if you have too much milk in the first place. The best option is to limit your intake or have one of these at the same time as any dairy https://flatulencecures.com/go/fast-acting-lactase-caplets

All the best,

Jim

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Naseem Alibhai

Thank you for all the information. It is great. However, both Peppermint tea and Fennel Tea gives me diaharrea, so is there something else I can do. What at present I do is put whole fennel seeds when making soups and sprinkle fennel powder on beans.

Reply
Jim

Hi Naseem,

Sorry to hear that. You could try ginger tea https://flatulencecures.com/ginger-tea-benefits-digestion or chewing the fennel seeds just prior to or just after a meal is also usually effective.

All the best,

Jim

Reply
DORIS

hi this is doris I was having this problem for the very long time not knowing that I’m lactose intolerance so now I’m happy because I now were the problem is as from today I will stay awayfrom milk and sugar because write now I don’t see clearly my eya is blurred

Reply
iko

Great Article! So I finally know what the heck is wrong with my stomach.. No more milk but I will def try Hemp Milk!
Thanks for your time!

Reply
Jim

Thanks for your positive comments and all the best with a lot less stomach problems.

Reply
Hazel

Hello, I’ve been having a problem with flatulence recently, can you help me?
I’m an Asian student who’s studying abroad in the Netherlands and only after I had consumed a lot of dairy products did I realise I (seemingly) have lactose intolerance which led to IBS. I was informed I had bacteria in my intestine and I’ve drunk a lot of medicines (anti-biotic and such) to cure this and it seems fine. However, I am still suffering from flatulence (even rumble). So I checked the things I ate during these periods.
– 1st + 2nd week: Kellogg cereal + lactose-free milk in the morning. I only drank 1 litre of milk for the whole week, which means I only drank a small amount each day.
– 2nd week: I ate more onions and seemed like it affected(?) then the gas thing started to increase by this time.
– 3rd week:
+) cereal + lactose-free milk in the morning
+) 2 slides of bread + lactose-free cheese for lunch + butter (Sunflower)
if flatulence increases, it’s likely to be due to lactose in dairy products, but the cheese and milk I ate are all lactose-free =.= or are all kinds of dairy products can cause flatulence? What should I do if these things happen again in the future, like should I stop eating something? Sorry for such a long comment, but I’ve been going to the doctor’s office quite a lot of times and it is really costly, plus my doctor did not say I needed to avoid eating anything specific.
Thank you.

Reply
Jim

Hi Hazel,

Virtually all people of Asian descent are lactose sensitive if not outright intolerant. Unfortunately lactose is often used as a additive in many European foods and you may still be getting it through these. Gluten in wheat products can also be a problem for many people.

While the antibiotics may have initially seemed to clear up the problem they can also reduce good bacteria and leave you GI tract unbalanced. I’d suggest cutting down processed foods with simple sugars, getting some good probiotics and eating a mainly natural food diet for a while.

Vegetables are great but it’s also best to limit certain ones like onions for a little while until this clears up https://flatulencecures.com/vegetables-that-cause-gas

As an emergency remedy activated charcoal is particularly good if you time it right https://flatulencecures.com/how-to-use-activated-carbon-flatulence

Hope this helps,

James

Reply
Melinda

I actually gave up dairy along with a bunch of other inflammation causing foods recently. But I have heard that if you don’t want to give up milk altogether drinking whole raw milk is a better choice. The theory behind it is that it contains the enzymes needed to help digest. Apparently the pasteurization process kills the enzymes and so your stomach and intestines have to do all the work. Any thoughts or anecdotes?

Reply
Jim

Hi Melinda,

I agree that drinking whole raw milk is better and much healthier but still think most people would experience problems with any more than a little of it. I certainly have in the past. Interestingly, I can drink proper fermented milk kefir without the same problems.

All the best,

Jim

Reply
Ashok

I heard A2 milk doesn’t cause some if these issues. What others opinion

Reply
Jak

Hi

Thank you that was very informative and answered a lot of my questions. I was never one of those people who liked drinking milk, in fact it was always a chore for my mother to get me to drink it (my calcium levels were always low in tests). I’d only gulp it down in front of the kitchen sink, like a bad tasting medicine.

When I was in high school, I noticed a pattern. Drink (powdered) milk for breakfast – 6:00 a.m. (I wasn’t big on having much else so early in the morning, maybe just a handful of dates), get stomach cramps – 10:00 a.m. , go to the washroom, life is good again. But the stomach cramps just weren’t worth it. I talked to my mother, she let me out of having it.

At the same time I noticed that if I had milk (packaged – lacnor) during our morning break (at which point I actually had a proper breakfast in me), I had no trouble at all.

I noticed the same thing on non school days; if I had milk on a full stomach – no problems. Empty stomach – big problems.

Now many years later, I’m beginning to crave milk: the body has a way of wanting what it needs. So I gave in and started drinking it again. Only it gives me gas for the next 12 hours. Though no stomach pain this time around. It may be because I’m having fresh (buffalo) milk now. But then again I take it in the evening, on an empty stomach, which from past experience, I know I don’t handle too well…

After reading your post, it all makes sense now. If my body, indeed, produces less lactase; then by taking milk on a full stomach, I am, in fact, prolonging the amount of time the milk remains in my stomach. Which means that the fewer lactase have enough time to digest all the lactose, completely, before the digested contents move to the next phase in the digestive tract. Walah! problem solved.

Conclusion: If only slightly lactose sensitive, have milk on a full stomach.

Other things I noticed:
– I wasn’t sensitive to any other dairy products
– For me, mixing milk with yoghurt (50: 50) with a dash of rohafza (a sweet herbal syrup used just for flavoring), never gave me any issues…even if on an empty stomach

P.s. Asia just so happens to be the largest continent and chunking all Asians together in just one ethnic race seems rather insulting.

Reply
Jim

Hi Jak and thanks for your detailed reply on how your lactose sensitivity manifests.

You’re right that having milk on a full stomach rather than empty stomach will be less likely to cause stomach cramps due to the slower digestive process. It’s interesting that the different timings make such as a difference as well.

On ethnic groups, it was not my intention to insult Asians in any way. The research studies that I read for this article did not generally differentiate between different parts of Asia (or indeed Africa) as they found little statistical difference between different regions in lactose sensitivity regardless of the size of the land mass.

There would be little point in listing 98% of people from Indian descent, 98% of people from Chinese descent and so on and so on. The intention of that paragraph is simply to illustrate that the majority of people in America of different ethnic heritage are highly likely to be sensitive to dairy products unless they are of Northern European descent. I don’t see any valid reason for someone to be insulted by this fact from scientific research.

All the best,

Jim

Reply
Jim

Hi Ashok,

The A1 protein could indeed be causing additional problems which A2 milk would address. For a smaller percentage of people it could be the primary problem. However A2 milk, while likely healthier, still contains lactose that the majority of people are sensitive too.

All the best,

Jim

Reply

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