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Can Soy Milk Cause Lactose Intolerance Symptoms?

Between 30 and 50 million Americans have mild to severe lactose intolerance, a condition that causes digestive symptoms within 30 minutes to two hours of eating dairy products, according to the Cleveland Clinic 24. While some infants exhibit symptoms of lactose intolerance, you can develop the condition with age or after an injury or surgery on the intestines 24. Regardless of the etiology, the symptoms occur only after ingesting a food containing lactose.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Lactose Basics

Lactose, the primary sugar in milk, occurs naturally in dairy products such as:

  • cream
  • milk
  • sweet cream
  • sour cream
  • cheese

The fat content in the product does not effect the amount of lactose. Because dairy products are used in so many processed foods, people with lactose intolerance must read food labels carefully to determine if the product contains dairy products 24. Look for ingredients such as

  • buttermilk
  • evaporated milk
  • sweetened condensed milk
  • whey
  • casein
  • dry milk products
  • whipped topping
  • milk chocolate
  • caramel

Lactose Intolerance

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Your body needs an enzyme called lactase to digest lactose. You can experience mild symptoms with lactose intolerance while others have more severe problems 24. With mild lactose intolerance you can manage your symptoms by eating smaller amounts of dairy products 24. A greater level of sensitivity may require eliminating dairy products altogether.

Soy Milk

Soy milk does not contain any type of dairy product and, therefore, has no lactose. Soy milk is made from a lactose-free plant source -- soybeans. Some manufacturers also add sugar or another sweetener.


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Because soy milk contains no lactose, it cannot cause lactose intolerance symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or abdominal cramping 24. However, consumers should be aware that infants and, increasingly, adults can develop an allergy to soy. Rarely, someone may have a severe anaphylactic reaction that constricts the airway, compromises breathing and puts the patient into shock.