Lactose intolerance

Some people can develop an intolerance to lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products such as milk, cream and cheese. People who are lactose intolerant lack an enzyme called lactase which breaks down the lactose into a form which their body can absorb. If you have found that drinking milk or eating dairy products gives you diarrhoea, it is possible that you are intolerant to lactose.

Research has shown that people with Crohn’s Disease in their small intestine are more likely to be lactose intolerant than people in the general population, but also that people with UC have the same chance as the general population of being lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance can be managed by following a low lactose or lactose free diet. Lactose free milks include soya, rice, oat and lactose free cow’s milk. Do bear in mind that avoiding milk and other dairy products could reduce the amount of calcium in your diet, which is important for bone health. (For more information, see our information sheet Bones and IBD.)

Your IBD team or your dietitian can help you discover if you are lactose intolerant. Because milk and dairy products are an important food group, it is better not to give them up until you have discussed your symptoms with your IBD team or dietitian. Some people may find that they develop a temporary intolerance during a flare-up.