Does Greek Yogurt Cause Lactose Intolerance?

Bloating, diarrhea and stomach pain from eating Greek yogurt may be a sign of lactose intolerance. Most cultured dairy products such as Greek yogurt have significantly less lactose, a sugar found in milk, than other dairy products do. Some people diagnosed with lactose intolerance can tolerate more lactose than others can. Talk with your doctor before consuming Greek yogurt is you have difficulty digesting milk sugar.

Creamy Greek yogurt topped with drizzled honey and nuts. (Image: DejanKolar/iStock/Getty Images)

Lactose Intolerance

As a baby, your digestive system produces plenty of lactase, a digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose, because your entire diet is based on milk. As you age, your small intestines stop producing as much lactase. If your body makes too little lactase, you can become lactose intolerant. When this occurs, your body can no longer digest the lactose in milk, which causes harmless bacteria in the colon to interact with the sugar. This interaction creates excessive gas, bloating and diarrhea within 30 minutes of eating dairy products. Once symptoms begin, there is no treatment aside from waiting for your body to expel the milk sugar.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt contains less lactose than most other dairy products, according to Chobani.com, a national brand of Greek yogurt. AskDrSears.com explains that yogurt contains live and active culture that convert the lactose into lactic acid, which is easy for the body to absorb. This chemical action results in a large reduction of lactose levels. Because everyone has a different level of tolerance for lactose, your body may or may not be able to handle the amount in Greek yogurt. If you're severely lactose intolerant, avoid Greek yogurt without first talking to a physician or registered dietician.

Challenge Diet

Under a doctor's supervision, you can perform a challenge diet. During a challenge diet, you remove all dairy products from your diet for one to two weeks. After the elimination period is complete, eat a 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt on the first day and record any symptoms. Over the next few days, increase the amount of Greek yogurt you eat by a 1/4 cup until either you reach a normal portion or you develop symptoms. Report your findings to your doctor.

Treatment

Even though lactose intolerance is incurable, you may be able to prevent the symptoms when you eat Greek yogurt by taking an enzyme digestive supplement. Theses supplements are sold over-the-counter and when taken before the first bite of yogurt will provide the needed enzymes to effectively break down the lactose. Other options of preventing lactose intolerant symptoms include avoiding all dairy products or finding a brand of Greek yogurt labeled "lactose-free."

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