Ricotta Cheese and Lactose

Not everyone can digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. This sugar is unable to be absorbed by the body because it is too complex. Lactose needs to simplify into galactose and glucose for it to be successfully absorbed into the bloodstream. Certain cheeses contain less lactose than most dairy products, such as ricotta cheese. If you've been diagnosed with lactose intolerance you may find that you can eat ricotta cheese without developing symptoms. Before consuming ricotta cheese, discuss the food with your doctor and how it will affect your condition.

A bowl of ricotta cheese and some slices of bread. (Image: nata_vkusidey/iStock/Getty Images)

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a common digestive condition that affects about 30 million Americans beginning around the age of 20, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine. Lactose intolerance occurs when your body doesn't produce lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose. Enzymes help the body absorb certain nutrients. If you lack the lactase enzyme, you're lactose intolerant. Symptoms from lactose intolerance can begin at any time in life.

Ricotta Cheese

A 1/2 cup ricotta cheese contains 1 to 5 grams of lactose, according to Food Intolerance Diagnostics. Fresh cheeses, such as ricotta, contain less lactose than other dairy products because the enzymes used to make the cheese help to digest some of the lactose before it enters the digestive system. Not everyone can tolerate the same amount of lactose. You may be able to eat ricotta cheese without forming any lactose intolerant symptoms if you are moderately intolerant. People with severe lactose intolerance will not be able to tolerate eating ricotta cheese without a supplement.

Symptoms

If you develop symptoms after eating ricotta cheese, you need to tell your doctor. Symptoms typically take 30 minutes to two hours before symptoms form. Common symptoms from lactose intolerance include bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea, cramping and vomiting. Symptoms from lactose intolerance are similar to a milk allergy and needs to be diagnosed by a physician. A milk allergy is a more serious condition that will require complete avoidance of dairy products.

Consuming Ricotta Cheese

If you cannot tolerate the amount of lactose in ricotta cheese, you may be able to still enjoy the cheese by taking lactase medication. Lactase supplements are sold over-the-counter at pharmacies in pill and liquid form. Taking this medication before you eat ricotta cheese can prevent common lactose intolerant symptoms from developing. If you prefer to try ricotta cheese substitutions you can try mixing some soft tofu with lemon juice and mixing it up, or simply crumble soft tofu and mix it with seasonings for use in dishes such as lasagna.

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