Making Your Own Lactose-Free Dairy
The low FODMAP diet is not a diary free diet. It is lower in lactose, however, and this is often a source of great confusion. Lactose and dairy are not the same thing, although they overlap. We highly encourage you to read our article, Lactose, Dairy and The Low FODMAP Diet.
This article here is about how to make your own lactose-free dairy products, such as milk, cream and more. We are taking DIY to a new level with DIY Lactose-Free Dairy!
Let’s Define Lactose-Free
In the FODMAP world, when we say something is lactose-free it can actually mean two things. Something can actually be lactose-free. An apple is lactose free. So are water, steak, rice, lettuce, oranges, chia seeds and many other foods.
They simply do not contain any disaccharides, the “D” in FODMAP, which refers to the two sugars that make up lactose (more on this below).
Then you have foods such as hard cheeses, like Parmesan and cheddar, that are not lactose-free (unless they are alternative versions of their original form), but rather, they are free of enough lactose in the portions recommended to be consumed as to be considered low FODMAP.
This is, in part, how we can eat dairy while on the low FODMAP diet and simultaneously remain low FODMAP.
The main reason these are considered dairy foods is because these products have been made with mammal’s milk (typically cow, sheep or goat).
As an example, Monash tells us that Cheddar cheese has .04g of lactose per 40 g serving. It is not lactose-free, it is just low enough for the low FODMAP diet!
You Can Buy Lactose-Free Milk – for a Price
You can certainly find commercially prepared lactose-free products in your supermarket. Milk, from whole to 2% and skim, is easy to find – but it can be pricey. If you are going to buy lactose-free milk we encourage you to read labels.
Some lactose-free milks have a very simple label, as seen below.
Then, some have more additives than you might have bargained for, as seen below in that image. Note that carrageenan and guar gum are NOT FODMAPs, but if you are trying to avoid them, you might not have thought of looking for them in your milk label.
This label below was found on a lactose-free milk that was also vitamin enriched. I called Hood, the company that makes the LACTAID product shown below, and they told us that the amount of calcium added negatively alters the texture of the milk and that the gums are added as stabilizers.
The same company makes an un-enriched milk without the additives.
Dairy + Lactase Enzyme = Lactose-Free
As you can see on both labels, the manufacturer has started with pure milk. They have then added an enzyme to render the product lactose-free.
Although all of the labels say, “lactase enzyme”, there are actually several enzymes which could qualify for that term.
Here are some facts:
- We do not know exactly what derivative they have used to produce their enzyme(s)
- We do not know the amount of enzyme(s) used per amount of dairy
- We do not know the amount of time the enzyme(s) have been in contact with the dairy product in order for it to be considered lactose-free
- We also don’t know how they test their products to be able to declare them as “lactose-free”
- And it isn’t clear whether they are totally free of lactose, or free of enough lactose in the serving sizes in order for them to called “lactose-free”
We have a fantastic article on enzymes and their use in aiding digestion and it is a great read.
As for the origin of lactase enzyme in various products, manufacturers do not always readily give us that information.
Lacteeze brand uses a form of tilactase, which is derived from yeast. Many commercial products will source their enzyme from bacteria, yeasts and molds such as aspergillus oryzae and aspergillus niger.
How to Make Your Own Lactose-Free Dairy
Here in the U.S. we have access to lactose-free milk fairly easily. Many well-stocked supermarkets have lactose-free cottage cheese, half-and-half and sour cream. Some specialty stores have lactose-free cream cheese, such as the Green Valley Creamery brand.
In the northeast where we are located, we do not have access to lactose-free heavy cream. Now, Monash University has lab tested heavy cream and it is allowed in 1/2-cup (60 g) portions when whipped and they say 2 Australian tablespoons (40 g) as a liquid, but heavy cream is such a common ingredient in baking and cooking that I wanted to learn how to make my own lactose-free heavy cream, knowing that I could then extend the technique to milk, half-and-half, light(er) creams etc.
Glucose Testing Strips
Lactose is made up of two-molecules – glucose and galactose. They are a class of sugar whose molecules contain two monosaccharides, and as such, these two sugars are the “D” or disaccharide in FODMAP (meaning two sugars).
When lactose is broken down enzymatically it splits into two more readily digestible sugars – glucose and galactose.
It occurred to me that perhaps I could find some glucose testing strips, buy some lactase enzyme and play mad scientist in the Test Kitchen.
Milk contains lactose. If glucose-testing strips were dipped in the milk before adding the enzyme presumably no glucose would be detected, as the molecules would not have been broken down yet. After adding the enzyme they would be.
At least, that was my theory. After a lactase enzyme is added, the sugars are broken down into glucose and galactose. The glucose testing strips would be able to detect the glucose.
Gather Your Tools
I ordered the Lacteeze lactase enzyme drops online.The ingredients are lactase enzyme and glycerol. (The glycerol, by the way, is considered low FODMAP by Monash).
The instructions direct the user to add 4 drops of enzyme to 1 litre (4 ½ cups) of milk and refrigerate for 24 hours. The company says that 70% to 80% of the lactose will be converted. They also suggest that to convert more lactose to add 8 to 10 drops and refrigerate for longer.
Within the Monash University Low FODMAP Training, they state, “add 1 drop of lactase enzyme preparation to 200 ml (⅞ cup) of milk, then refrigerate for 24 hours. Refrigerating for longer will breakdown more of the lactose into individual sugar units (glucose and galactose)”.
Between the product manufacturer and the directives from Monash I decide to add the equivalent of 10 drops to 1 litre of cream and to refrigerate for 36 hours. At that point I tested the milk with the glucose test strips.
Note that you can do this with other liquid dairy as well, such as milk or half-and-half.
Additional Dairy Products
I have experimented with sweetened condensed milk, as I wanted to be able to make classic desserts like Key Lime Pie and easy fudge. It has been successful, but as sweetened condensed milk is so thick it is important to use the larger amount of the drops and then take care to very throughly incorporate them into the dairy product. I also refrigerate the product for an extended time as well.
Simply test with your glucose strips and if you are not seeing the results you need, add more drops, wait longer, then test again.
Testing, Testing 1-2-3
Before adding the enzyme to the cream, I dipped a glucose strip into some cream, and you can see below that the strip does not change color. This is because the lactose is still present and has not split into glucose and galactose molecules. The strips are testing for the presence of glucose and they cannot register any at this time.
Once the lactase enzyme has done its job splitting the molecules, and therefore making the dairy more digestible for those who have difficulty digesting lactose, the glucose-testing strip does indeed register positive for glucose, as you can see below with the strip turning a dark green color.
How Much Lactose is Converted?
I do not know. I discussed my testing approach with the makers of the strips at Precision Laboratories. They agreed that as the strips turned dark green that we do know that lactose has been converted. We do not know how much.
Our suggestion is to get some Lacteeze drops, add the larger amount suggested to your chosen liquid dairy, such as milk, heavy cream or half-and-half, wait the longer time suggested and then try the dairy and see how your digestive system reacts.
THAT is what is most important, in the end. How do you feel? If you know what your symptoms are when you ingest dairy and you have lesser or no symptoms when ingesting our DIY lactose-free dairy, then this might be a great adjunct for you on the diet.
Here are some dairy-rich recipes for you to try! AFTER you have made your own lactose-free cream!
We even have recipes using DIY Lactose-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk, like our Rocky Road Fudge.
And we know you all love our article on Making Your Own Lactose-Free Yogurt, so now you can start with your “own” DIY milk!