A survey of 1,008 American adults shows that 81 percent say they know what lactose intolerance is. However, among those who proclaim to have an understanding of lactose intolerance, 57 percent believe the only way to deal with the problem is to avoid dairy products.

Lactose intolerance does not mean no dairy products. That’s just a popular myth that many believe. Unfortunately, that belief leads many to deprive themselves and family members of the health benefits of dairy products, says Laura Brainin-Rodriguez, nutritionist with the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Consuming dairy products is an important part of fending off osteoporosis and other diseases where eating dairy products has shown to prove beneficial.

The survey was sponsored by McNeil Nutritionals. Other survey results include: 33 percent said there is a difference between lactose intolerance and difficulty digesting dairy products; 35 percent responded that they did not know; and only 31 percent correctly responded that the two conditions are the same.

Lactose intolerance is a condition that occurs when the body doe not produce enough lactase enzyme to digest the lactose in dairy products when eaten. However, the good news is that lactose intolerance is easy to manage without sacrificing dairy foods from the diet. Experts recommend the following:

  • Consume small amounts of dairy items several hours apart.
  • Always eat other foods with foods containing milk.
  • Choose hard or aged cheeses as they contain less lactose that other cheeses.
  • Eat yogurt with active cultures.
  • Buy lactose-free milk.
  • Use supplements, such as Lactaid, which make lactose easier to digest.