Lactose intolerance. It’s one of those phrases we hear a lot, but the truth is, a lot of folks don’t really know what it means. Case in point? I was reading an article in the newspaper the other day in which the author concluded that most Americans misunderstand lactose intolerance…but my own conclusion was that the author herself misunderstood the condition!

In the article she stated that many people avoid dairy products “because they mistakenly think they’re lactose intolerant”. But really, that’s only half the story. Lactose intolerance involves an inability to digest lactose, which is the sugar found in dairy products, but the reason so many people avoid dairy has more to do with an allergy or sensitivity to casein—a protein found in milk—and not because of lactose intolerance.

And yes, while the author expressed a valid concern about people avoiding dairy when they may not even be lactose intolerant, she failed to talk about the possibility of looking into milk protein sensitivity (similar to gluten sensitivity) in order to address the problem…and the differences between the two are pretty significant if you’re used to avoiding an entire food group!

Essentially, people who are allergic to or sensitive to casein usually need to avoid all dairy products, but those who are lactose intolerant can sometimes eat dairy in small portions, or with the help of natural lactase enzymes. Imagine thinking you couldn’t eat dairy at all and then finding out that you still may be able to enjoy some of your favorite foods—I’m sure it would be welcome news to a lot of people. So hopefully this clears up a little of the confusion folks have about lactose intolerance, and maybe it’s even helped you see things differently in your own diet!