Lactose Intolerance & Coffee

A pitcher with milk pouring into a coffee cup.
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Being lactose intolerant doesn't mean that you have to give up your coffee. There are several products that you can add to your coffee for flavor that do not contain lactose. If you order coffee from a coffeehouse, you need to ensure that it's lactose-free. Keep in mind that commercial flavorings and creamers often do have lactose.


Understanding Lactose Intolerance

Lactose is a type of sugar carbohydrate found in milk and milk products. Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme lactase, which is produced in the small intestine. Lactase breaks down lactose into two simpler forms of sugar, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream. While lactose intolerance is not life threatening, it may cause you to experience severe intestinal distress, which can include gas, bloating, cramping and diarrhea, when you consume dairy foods. Further, severe diarrhea can lead to a deficiency in vitamins or minerals that are normally absorbed in the small intestine.


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Non-Dairy Creamers

There are several types of non-dairy creamers that you can use in place of milk to lighten your coffee. They come in a variety of flavors, in both liquid and powder form. Non-dairy creamers contain sodium caseinate in place of lactose. Sodium caseinate is a derivative of milk, but it is a protein, not a sugar carbohydrate. This ingredient helps give non-dairy creamers their smooth textures.


Soy Milk

Soy milk, made from ground soy beans, is rich in several nutrients and is lactose-free. Adding soy milk to your coffee gives you added protein, vitamins and minerals. Soy milk is naturally rich in iron, calcium, vitamins A, D, B-12 and folate. Some manufacturers add thickening agents to their soy milk to give it the texture and feel of cow's milk. Using soy milk in place of dairy allows you to give your coffee a healthy boost without sacrificing flavor or texture.


Almond Milk

Almond milk is another type of lactose-free option that you can add to your coffee. Like soy milk, almond milk comes in a variety of flavors and is often thickened for proper texture. Almond milk is made by grinding almonds with water and then straining out all of the particles. The liquid that's left is almond milk, which has a rich nutty flavor, perfect for coffee.


Flavored Coffee

You can also have flavored coffee instead of adding a non-dairy creamer or milk variants. Coffee comes in a variety of flavors, including chocolate, hazelnut and vanilla. Adding sugar or a sugar substitute may give you all the flavor you need without having to add anything else.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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