Lactose Intolerance Weight Loss
Milk and dairy products have been with us for millennia. Some cultures have credited this food source as the primary reason for their survival over hundreds of years. Not until comparatively recently have people considered the natural fat in dairy as something associated with health problems. The creation of low fat and no-fat dairy products nearly a hundred years ago added to the belief that dairy foods were fattening and that in turn made them subject to concerns about health issues.
Presently this has made some believe that lactose intolerance weight loss is a way to shed those extra stubborn pounds. However, could this condition of being unable to digest milk and dairy products cause you to lose weight? What do science and experts say about this?
What is lactose intolerance?
This is an inability to properly digest lactose – a sugar found in cow’s milk and dairy products. The condition is also known as lactose malabsorption or otherwise as lactose intolerance (6). What causes lactose intolerance? The malabsorption happens when your small intestines do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase which is needed to digest lactose – a disaccharide sugar found exclusively in mammalian milk.
When this non-digested milk sugar is unable to be absorbed into the body via the small intestine lining, it moves into the large intestine (colon region) where it interacts with the bacteria there, causing a number of symptoms and discomfort (6).
What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
An intolerance to lactose is relatively easy to diagnose. Its signs and symptoms include passing gas, diarrhea, bloating, stomach rumbling, cramps, pains, and nausea (8). Symptoms usually appear within 30 minutes to two hours of having consumed food or drinks that contain lactose.
If you are experiencing all or most of the above symptoms but are still not convinced it’s related to lactose intolerance, you could visit a professional for help. There are about three main tests that could be used to determine if you are suffering from this. They include (8)
Milk tolerance test
You will be asked to drink a glass of milk, and then you will undergo a blood test. If your blood sugar levels do not rise, then you may be intolerant to lactose.
Lactose tolerance test
This also involves a blood test, but instead of drinking milk, you will be handed a lactose solution drink. If your blood glucose levels are slow to rise or do not rise at all, then you are lactose intolerant.
The hydrogen breath test
For this test you will be asked not to eat anything the night before your test. Upon arrival at your clinic, a nurse will measure the amount of hydrogen in your breath. You will then be given a lactose solution to drink, and your breath will be tested every 15 minutes for a couple of hours. Breathing out too much hydrogen will indicate that you aren’t fully digesting and absorbing lactose.
Can lactose intolerance affect weight loss?
Ordinarily, intolerance to lactose does not cause weight loss or weight gain (10). That being said, sometimes, lactose intolerance causes weight loss because you are missing vital vitamins and minerals from your diet. Nutrient deficiency should not be celebrated as it may lead to bigger issues such as osteopenia, osteoporosis, and malnutrition (8). You can find these essential nutrients – calcium and Vitamin D – from other sources such as vegetables, nuts, beans, and plenty of sunshine (9). The only way to effectively lose weight is by creating a caloric deficit. Cutting 500 to 1,000 calories a day from your typical diet could help you lose 1 to 2 pounds a week (2).
Are there weight loss plans for lactose intolerant people?
No. Sadly, there are no specific lactose intolerance weight loss meal plans out there. However, no matter what diet you choose to follow, you can make some changes that will allow you to lose weight successfully without consuming products with lactose or dairy.
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Foods to eat for a lactose intolerance weight loss plan
Here is how to achieve a lactose intolerance weight loss eating plan from home. First, you must learn which foods and drinks to avoid if you are lactose intolerant (5)
Such as apples, bananas, oranges, berries, pears, grapes, pineapples, and more, can be safely consumed. However, you should watch your intake since most fruits are relatively high in sugar and carbs, and this could add up and negatively affect your weight loss plans.
Especially dark leafy greens, are incredibly valuable in your diet. They are low in calories and do not have dairy. Examples include lettuce, spinach, bok choy, Swiss chard, kale, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, etc.
3. Nuts, seeds, and healthy fats
Nuts and seeds include almonds, chia seeds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, pistachios, and sunflower seeds. Healthy fats can be found in oils such as olive, coconut and sesame oils, and avocados.
4. Lean meats
Meat is an excellent source of protein, which is very important in a weight loss diet. Proteins help with muscle growth, and they take longer to digest, thus keep you satiated longer. When you pick your meats, always go for the leaner options such as chicken and turkey breasts, beef liver, beef loin, duck, pork loin/chop, ground chicken, bison, turkey, or venison (15).
5. Oily fish
Such as trout, salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna are perfect for a lactose intolerance weight loss diet as they are relatively low in calories.
6. Whole grains
Like barley, buckwheat, quinoa, couscous, and oats increase calorie loss by decreasing the number of calories retained during digestion and speed up your metabolism while at rest (17)
7. Legumes and lentils
They are rich in protein.
Being on a lactose intolerance weight loss eating plan might make you forgo cow’s milk, but this does not mean that you will have to settle for black coffee and tea. Instead, you can incorporate dairy-free plant-based options like rice milk, almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, or hemp milk.
After learning which food you can consume, the second step is to get rid of all the foods that can trigger your intolerance and cause weight gain. You should avoid animal milk, soft cheeses, yogurt, ice cream, buttermilk, sour, and whipped cream. Some foods that are not directly milk products but often still contain lactose include bread, tortillas, crackers, baked goods and desserts, waffles, pancakes, processed meats, salad dressing, and creamed vegetables (5).
It is also essential to note that some people can still enjoy these ‘prohibited foods’ like butter, aged cheeses, and yogurt with live cultures without triggering their symptoms (16). Yogurt specifically, is much easier to digest than other dairy products. This is because the bacterial lactase enzyme survives the stomach’s acidic conditions, as it is physically protected within the bacterial cells and facilitated by the buffering capacity of yogurt (4). The secret is to know your limits when it comes to lactose.
Sample of a cheap lactose intolerance weight loss diet
Finding a cheap weight loss meal plan for lactose intolerance is quite easy. Since you are only required to cut out milk, its products, and foods made from it, you are left with many healthy options to choose from. Listed below are two options for a 1200 calorie lactose intolerance diet plan
Banana chocolate smoothie
1 frozen banana, 3 tablespoons hemp hearts, 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 3-4 ice cubes, 2 handfuls fresh spinach (optional)
Calories: 261. Fat: 4 g, Proteins: 17 g, Carbs: 43 g
Fruit salad (14)
1.25 tsp fresh orange juice, 1 and a half tsp fresh lemon juice, 1 and a half tsp brown sugar, 1/8 tsp orange zest, 1/8 tsp lemon zest, 1/8 tsp vanilla extract, 3 tablespoons and 1-1/4 teaspoons cubed fresh pineapple, 3 tablespoons and 1-1/2 teaspoons strawberries, hulled and sliced, 1/4 kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced, 1/4 bananas, sliced, 1/4 oranges, peeled and sectioned, 1 tablespoon and 1-3/4 teaspoons seedless grapes, 3 tablespoons and 1/2 teaspoon blueberries
Calories: 155. Fat: 0.6 g, Proteins: 1.8 g, Carbs: 39 g
Chicken satay salad
1tbsp tamari, 1tsp medium curry powder, 1/4 tsp ground cumin, 1 grated garlic clove, 1tsp honey, 2 skinless chicken or turkey breast fillets, 1tbsp crunchy peanut butter, 1tbsp sweet chilli sauce, 1tbsp lime juice, sunflower oil, for wiping the pan, 2 lettuce hearts, 1/4 cucumber, halved and sliced, 1 thinly sliced shallot, handful of coriander, seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
Calories: 353. Fat: 10 g, Proteins: 38 g, Carbs: 24 g
Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto & Shrimp
5-6 medium zucchini, trimmed, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 ripe avocado, 1 cup fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper, 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons, 3 cloves garlic, minced, 1 pound raw shrimp peeled and deveined, tails left on if desired.
One serving of this = 1 and 3/4 cups
Calories: 446. Fat: 33.2 g, Proteins: 25.9.2 g, Carbs: 15.8 g
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1215. Fat: 47.8 g, Proteins: 82.7 g, Carbs: 121.8 g
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Option 2 – Keto-friendly lactose intolerance weight loss meal
Finding a lactose intolerance weight loss diet while doing keto might be quite hard. For a successful keto lactose-free diet, you would have to forgo cheeses and butter, which are heavily emphasized on in a ketogenic diet. However here is what a day of keto lactose intolerance weight loss diet would look like (12)
Bacon and Eggs
2 eggs, 35 g bacon, in slices, cherry tomatoes (optional), fresh parsley
Calories: 272. Fat: 22 g, Proteins: 15 g, Carbs: 1 g
Oven-baked rutabaga wedges and Roasted fennel and snow pea salad
For the wedges – 110 g rutabaga, 15 ml olive oil, 1/4 tsp chili powder or paprika powder, salt, and pepper
For the salad – 110 g fresh fennel, 3/4 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 lemon, 1/2 tbsp or 4 g pumpkin seeds, toasted, 35 g snow peas
Calories: 332. Fat: 26 g, Proteins: 5 g, Carbs: 15 g
Cauliflower rice and Beetroot-cured salmon with dill oil
For the salmon – 1/4 beet, 1/2 tbsp salt, 1 and a quarter peppercorns, white, 1/4 lime, the zest, 110 g salmon. 15 g daikon, finely sliced and 50 g lettuce
For the dill oil – 30 ml fresh dill, chopped, 1/4 tbsp frozen spinach, 30 ml light olive oil or avocado oil, salt, and pepper to taste
Calories: 500. Fat: 42 g, Proteins: 25 g, Carbs: 4 g
Homemade garlic bread
40 g almond flour, 12 g ground psyllium husk powder, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp cider vinegar, 60 ml boiling water, 3/4 egg white 30 g butter, 1/4 garlic clove, minced, 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped, 1/8 tsp salt
This recipe makes 5 pieces. One serving = 1 piece. Also note that while this snack has butter, a single serving will not trigger your intolerance. You can safely consume up 12 grams of butter at a time without experiencing any symptoms (3).
Calories: 94. Fat: 9 g, Proteins: 2 g, Carbs: 1 g
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1198. Fat: 99 g, Proteins: 47 g, Carbs: 21 g.
Who’s at risk for lactose intolerance?
Almost all people can become intolerant to lactose irrespective of race. However, some people are more predisposed to being born with or developing this later in life (7). They are as follows
- 25% of people in Europe
- 50-80% of people of Hispanic origin, people from south India, people of African ancestry, and Ashkenazi Jews
- Almost 100% of people in Asia and American Indians
Can you become lactose intolerant all of a sudden?
Yes, you can. There are three main types of lactose intolerance; Congenital or developmental, primary and secondary. Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance is a rare autosomal recessive condition that occurs in full-term or premature babies when born without lactase (6).
The primary and secondary types are what is likely to cause sudden lactose intolerance. The former occurs in adulthood when lactase production falls off sharply. The latter occurs when lactase production diminishes after an illness, injury, or surgery involving your small intestine. It can also be triggered by illnesses like intestinal infections, celiac disease, bacterial overgrowth, and Crohn’s disease (6).
What is the difference between lactose intolerance and milk allergy?
Some people may confuse lactose intolerance with milk allergy because both issues stem from the same products. However, it is crucial to note that these are not the same thing(11). Being intolerant to lactose means that your body cannot digest lactose. A milk allergy, on the other hand, is an abnormal response by the body’s immune system to milk and its products. Milk allergy is usually triggered by proteins in the milk, while lactose intolerance is a reaction to milk sugar.
Unlike intolerance, an allergy involves the immune system. Another huge point to note is that while the symptoms of lactose intolerance are mostly uncomfortable, a reaction to a milk allergy could be life-threatening. Symptoms of milk allergy include (13)
- Abdominal cramps
- Itching or tingling feeling around the lips or mouth
- Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
- Coughing or shortness of breath
- Loose stool with blood
- Runny nose and watery eyes
This allergy can also cause anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction that narrows the airways and can block breathing. If not treated on time – through an epinephrine (adrenaline) shot – it can lead to death. Milk allergy is also known as casein allergy (1). If you are unsure if you have an intolerance or a milk/casein allergy, please note down your symptoms and speak to your doctor about them.
The Bottom Line: Is lactose intolerance weight loss possible?
When it comes to lactose intolerance weight loss, not being able to digest milk or having dairy products does not affect your weight loss or gain. What affects your weight is how much food you consume per day. The more calories you consume, the more pounds you gain. You will have to go on a caloric deficit to shed those extra pounds.
A lactose intolerance weight loss diet only works if you adhere to your recommended calorie intake for the day. If you are unsure about how to make such an eating plan, please speak to a dietitian and help you. As usual, always speak to your doctor before making any dietary changes. This ensures that you are not putting your health in danger, and they can help you plan your diet in a way that ensures you get all your nutrients despite cutting out certain foods.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Casein Allergy Overview (2020, webmd.com)
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- Lactose digestion from yogurt: mechanism and relevance (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Lactose-Free Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid (2020, healthline.com)
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- Lactose Intolerant? Here’s How to Get the Nutrients You Need (2018, webmd.com)
- Lactose Intolerance and Weight Gain in Adults (n.d, livestrong.com)
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- Low-carb, keto and dairy-free recipes (2020, dietdoctor.com)
- Milk allergy (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Perfect Summer Fruit Salad (n.d, allrecipes.com)
- The Leanest Meat Proteins, Ranked (n.d, mensjournal.com)
- What Is a Dairy-Free Diet? (2020, verywellfit.com)
- Whole grains increase metabolism, may help promote weight loss (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)