Are You Really Lactose Intolerant?

By Scot Tindal

Clients often suspect they are lactose intolerant if they can't lose those unwanted pounds or if they experience digestive issues like bloating, irregular bowel movements, pain, or discomfort. While lactose is a popular scapegoat and is routinely splashed across social media, it's rarely the culprit. Lactose intolerance is a real condition and its prevalence is dependent upon your genetics. However, it is important to distinguish between primary lactose intolerance, which is typically inherited, and secondary causes of lactose intolerance. (1) Secondary causes of intolerance, such as celiac disease, infectious enteritis, or Crohn’s disease, can cause lactose to not be digested fully by the body. (2)

If you are lactose intolerant, your intolerance will not prevent you from losing body fat. Weight gain is an energy imbalance issue, meaning that you are consuming more food and fluid than you are using. Even if you switch to a dairy-free diet, you will likely continue to experience the same body-fat issues unless you address the energy imbalance. If you believe you have an intolerance and want to cut dairy for symptomatic relief, there are a few ways of determining if you struggle with lactose.


It is important to set up a way of recording your daily well-being. If you are tech savvy, you can even check out these diary apps. You should consider recording your sleep quality, mood, energy, digestion, and bowel movements. Information in each category should be paired with positive or negative symptoms that you experience.


If you try a lactose-free diet for 3–4 weeks, reintroduce dairy after week 4 to reassess your signs and symptoms. Add some milk, cheese, and yogurt into your diet at the start of week 5. Try this for 2–3 days and monitor changes. You will quickly be able to identify if an intolerance exists.

Take-Home Message

Lactose intolerance is a real issue for many people and its degree of severity varies case by case. It can adversely affect your gut and produce symptoms of discomfort. It is unlikely to be the cause for weight gain, and resolving an intolerance will not likely help with losing body fat. If you follow the steps above and find that you have an intolerance, stick with a lactose-free diet and enjoy the benefits.

  1. “Lactose Intolerance - Genetics Home Reference - NIH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health,
  2. Mattar, Rejane, et al. “Lactose Intolerance: Diagnosis, Genetic, and Clinical Factors.” Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology, Dove Medical Press, 5 July 2012,

About Ixcela

Photo: Jessica Petrucci

Ixcela helps individuals measure and improve their internal wellness. Using a simple pinprick blood test, Ixcela measures key metabolites and then makes personalized recommendations to improve gut health through exercise, dietary habits, and supplements.