Here’s Why Lactose-Free Milk Still Makes You Sick

If you still feel sick after drinking lactose-free milk, the problem wasn’t lactose. Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem that manifests as an inability to digest lactose – a sugar present in some types of dairy products. And it is different from a dairy allergy.

As nutritious and delicious as milk is, it doesn’t just settle well in some bowels. Dairy allergy and lactose intolerance are two common conditions associated with milk digestion. And getting to know which one you have is not always easy.

This is why you may still feel sick after drinking lactose-free milk. In this article, you’ll get to know why you still feel sick after drinking lactose-free milk, the types of lactose intolerance, and what to do.

Why does lactose-free milk still make you sick?

Lactose-free milk may make you sick if what you have is a dairy allergy. Lactose intolerance and dairy allergy share some similar symptoms that can make you conclude you’re lactose intolerant.

You should switch to lactose-free, non-dairy milk if lactose-free milk makes you sick. However, in some cases, the symptoms may persist even with non-dairy milk. In such a case, the problem is guar gum.

Guar gum is a thickener and stabilizer added to commercial non-dairy milk, yogurt, ice cream, and jams to make the ingredients mix properly and thicken the products. This additive is not dairy, but it triggers an allergic reaction in some people.

What should you do if lactose-free milk still makes you sick?

If lactose-free milk still makes you sick, it means you probably have a dairy allergy. Quit taking lactose-free milk and replace it with non-dairy milk.

If you also experience a reaction to non-dairy milk, check the ingredient list of the product. If it contains guar gum, you should stop taking it. Look for non-dairy products that do not contain guar gum. If the symptoms persist, see a doctor.

SEE: Is Dairy-Free Diet the Same as Lactose-Free Diet?

Types of lactose intolerance

There are four types of lactose intolerance. Each type tells why the body cannot break down lactose in dairy products. They include:

Primary lactose intolerance

Primary lactose intolerance is the most prevalent type of lactose intolerance. This type is seen in people of different races and at different times of life. You don’t have to be born with lactose intolerance before you have primary lactose intolerance.

It happens when the lactase level in the body reduces due to a reduction in milk consumption and a change in diet. The best way to treat this type of lactose intolerance is to stay off dairy products and replace them with non-dairy alternatives.

You can buy lactase enzyme dietary supplements from the pharmacy to help manage the symptoms of primary lactose intolerance. Take the tablets as soon as you take in any dairy product that contains lactose.

Secondary lactose intolerance

Secondary lactose intolerance is a type of lactose intolerance that arises due to an illness, an injury to the small intestine, or surgery around the digestive system. Conditions like celiac disease and IBS can trigger this lactose intolerance.

Therefore, once the causative illness or injury is fully treated, this lactose intolerance can also be addressed.

Congenital lactose intolerance

Congenital lactose intolerance is lactose intolerance that is inherited from the parents. A major sign is that the baby’s digestive system will not tolerate breast milk. They become diarrheic once breast milk or a formula enters their system.

This lactose intolerance type should be diagnosed and treated early enough before it progresses into a worse case. A quick way to address the situation is to keep the baby off breast milk and introduce lactose-free formula.

Developmental lactose intolerance

This type of lactose intolerance is present in babies born prematurely. When babies are born weeks before lactase production begins in their system, they grow up with lactose intolerance as a digestive problem.

SEE: Does Milk Have Water In It?

How do you know you’re lactose intolerant?

Lactose intolerance manifests within 20 to 30 minutes after drinking milk. The following symptoms are signs that you’re lactose intolerant:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Gas and flatulence
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Fatigue and headache

What’s the best milk for lactose intolerance?

The best dairy milk for lactose intolerance is LACTAID. It is cow milk that contains lactase which helps break down lactose and prevent a reaction in your system.

Additionally, other milk alternatives for lactose intolerance include non-dairy milk like soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and flax milk.

SEE: Can You Freeze a Gallon of Milk and Still Have It Taste Good?

Is lactose intolerance the same as IBS?

No, it is not. Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem due to the inability of the body to produce an enzyme needed to digest milk sugar. IBS is a bowel function disorder. Both conditions have similar symptoms, and it is possible to have both conditions at a time.

However, nausea and vomiting are characteristic symptoms of lactose intolerance, and constipation alternating with diarrhea is a characteristic symptom of IBS.

Additionally, while lactose intolerance is triggered when you consume milk that contains lactose, IBS can be triggered by stress, medication, food, and sometimes dairy.

SEE: Find Out If Half And Half is Lactose-Free

Is there a permanent treatment for lactose intolerance?

No, there is not. Lactose intolerance has no permanent treatment. The best you can do is manage the symptoms by staying off dairy and dairy products that contain lactose.

Depending on the severity of your lactose intolerance, you can slowly include dairy into your diet in a combination with other foods.

In addition, lactase tablets and lactase drops can help reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance after consuming dairy and dairy products. In some cases, children outgrow lactose intolerance.


Why does lactose-free milk make you gassy?

If lactose-free, non-dairy milk makes you gassy, it could be a result of guar gum in the milk.

Which milk is best for dairy allergy?

The best milk for dairy allergy is non-dairy or tree nut milk. Examples include almond milk, coconut milk, flax milk, soy milk, cashew milk, peanut milk, and walnut milk.

Is lactose-free milk good for the celiac condition?

Yes, it is. In most cases, gluten sensitivity also comes with lactose intolerance. Lactose-free milk like almond milk and other tree nut milk is the best milk option for gluten sensitivity.


If milk upsets your stomach when you drink it, it could be lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy. Although both digestive problems have similar symptoms, they have their characteristic symptoms.

If you have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, but you still feel sick after drinking lactose-free milk, it could be a dairy allergy instead.

The best first aid for this is to stay off dairy and dairy products for a few days. Also, quit taking dairy milk and replace all dairy with non-dairy alternatives.

Thanks for reading.

Visit Cheffist to get relevant information on food allergies and how to detect and prevent them.