Lactase is an enzyme that you can take in supplemental form that helps your body digest lactose, which is a form of sugar found in dairy products.
Lactase allows people with lactose intolerance to enjoy dairy without the gastrointestinal side effects, like bloating and nausea, that can happen when you eat dairy.
Everyone is born with the ability to produce the lactase enzyme in their body, but many people lose the ability to produce this enzyme when they grow up.
If you want to enjoy the taste and the health benefits of dairy products even if you are lactose intolerant, our researchers have ranked the ten best lactase supplements on the market.
1. Kirkland Signature Fast Acting Lactase
Kirkland Signature Fast Acting Lactase is a high dosage and rapidly dissolving lactase supplement.
With 9000 units of lactase per capsule, this lactase supplement is well-suited for dairy-heavy meals and for people who need a lot of lactase to be able to process dairy without digestive problems.
2. NOW Dairy Digest Complete
NOW Dairy Digest Complete is the best choice when it comes to a comprehensive lactase supplement that offers more than just the enzyme.
This supplement offers 1000 units of lactase, as well as protease and lipase, which help digest proteins and fats, respectively. Both of these are found in dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and ice cream, so you’ll digest these foods better with NOW Dairy Digest Complete.
The main downside is the low dosage of lactase—you’ll need to take at least two or three of these capsules before a meal, and people who have more severe lactose intolerance should probably opt for a higher dose lactase supplement.
3. Nature’s Way Lactase Enzyme
Nature’s Way Lactase Enzyme has a slightly higher than average dose of 3450 units of lactase in every capsule, but it really stands out for its clean supplement design.
If all you want is a lactase supplement in a simple capsule without any binders, fillers, or special formulations for fast release, this should be your choice.
4. Schiff Digestive Advantage
Schiff Digestive Advantage uses a combination of probiotic bacteria and 3000 lactase units per capsule to provide a more robust defense against foods with lactose in them.
The bacillus coagulans probiotic also helps break down lactose and improves your gut flora, but the actual dosage of probiotics (0.5 billion CFUs) is not very substantial compared to a full-blown probiotic supplement.
In addition, there are some coloring agents and binders that you won’t find in a cleaner supplement, but even so, some people will be willing to put up with this for the probiotic content alongside the lactase content.
5. Lactaid Original
Lactaid Original is a very popular lactase supplement that’s been around for a long time. At 3000 units of lactase per capsule, the dosage is solid, and the supplement design is reasonably clean (though not the greatest).
There’s a fast-acting formulation too, but Lactaid Original is intended to be taken prior to a meal that contains lactose.
6. Guardian Fast Acting Dairy Relief
Guardian Fast Acting Dairy Relief is a high-dose fast-acting lactase supplement. It delivers 9000 units of lactase per capsule, and does so rapidly thanks to the quick-dissolving properties of the tablet.
However, for these benefits, you have to put up with a lot of binders, fillers, and other additives. It’s very practical, but not the best as far as purity goes.
7. Seeking Health Lactase Drops
Seeking Health Lactase Drops are a liquid formulation, which is unusual for a lactase supplement. This approach offers a number of drawbacks: for one, the lactase dosage per serving is much lower, at only 750 units, and second, the dosage is trick to measure out by yourself.
That being said, Seeking Health Lactase Drops do have one excellent niche use, which is with infants, who obviously can’t take a tablet or capsule.
The super-clean ingredients list—just water, glycerine, and lactase enzyme—makes this an excellent choice if your infant or toddler needs a lactase supplement.
8. Best Naturals Natural Lactase Enzyme
Best Naturals Natural Lactase Enzyme is a fast-dissolving tablet, though its dosage is lower, at 3000 units of lactase per tablet.
The fast-acting formulation makes it a good choice if you didn’t realize you’d eaten a meal with lactose in it, though it’ll still be more effective taken prior to, versus after, a meal. The supplement design isn’t the cleanest, but it is effective.
9. Certified Plus Original Dairy Relief
Certified Plus Original Dairy Relief has a moderate 3000 lactase unit dosage, which will work well for people with mild to moderate lactose intolerance.
It’s not fast release, and the supplement formulation is a little bloated with extra ingredients and binders, so purists and those looking for quick relief won’t be pleased, but it’s still an okay choice for most others.
10. Nova Nutritions Lactase Enzyme
Nova Nutritions Lactase Enzyme has a middle of the road dosage of 3000 units of lactase per tablet.
It’s not a fast-dissolving tablet, and its design doesn’t really stand out from the rest of the crowd, making it hard to rank any higher.
Who Should Buy Lactase Supplements?
Lactase supplements are great for most people but are especially beneficial to those who have lactose intolerances and can’t properly digest dairy products. Many people—up to 70% of the world’s population, in fact—are lactose intolerant, because their body stops producing lactase naturally as they grow up.
Diabetics should be extra careful when considering a lactase supplement as it may affect blood sugar levels. Pregnant women, expecting women, and breastfeeding women should avoid lactase supplements until more research is confirmed.
If you are currently taking any medication, it’s important to speak to your doctor before taking a lactase supplement to ensure it will not negatively interact with your medication.
How We Ranked
In terms of the best lactase supplements, we first analyzed the type of digestive lactase included in each supplement. We preferred the poplar beta-galactosidase, derived from the fungi Aspergillus niger. Any product that did not include this was axed from our list. We did make the exception for some products if the beta-galactosidase was derived from Aspergillus oryzae since it provided a digestive enzyme of similar quality
Dosage was also important to consider. According to various research, between 6000-9000, it should be taken before meals with dairy. Because of this, we preferred our top products like Kirkland and Nature’s Way, which included more than 3000IU’s per serving. Some of our lower-ranked products, like Seeking Health, contained less than 3000IUs per serving, which was fine for smaller people and females, but not ideal in terms of economical value.
There is some research showing that just 2000 IU’s is needed. As such, we decided to include Now, in our top 3 for providing a 1000IU supplement. While you can’t technically overdose on lactase, you may have some digestive distress if consuming too much in the begging. This is another reason why smaller dosage products made our list. In terms of purity, we preferred companies that were organic certified and third-party tested for purity.
Lastly, we looked at the delivery method. We preferred capsule products over droplets, like Seeking Health, as there was more accurate dosing. Furthermore, rapidly digestion prodders like our top ranking Kirkland lactase supplement provided quicker digestive relief and was thus rewarded.
Lactase can help you take advantage of the health benefits of dairy. Epidemiological research has shown a wide range of benefits associated with eating dairy, such as stronger bones, lower blood pressure, and a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes (1, 2, 3).
These benefits are thought to be the result of the high-quality nutritional content of dairy, which includes large amounts of calcium, vitamin D (in fortified dairy), protein, and other compounds like conjugated linoleic acid.
These beneficial compounds work in conjunction with each other to make dairy foods an excellent source of health benefits, but unfortunately, these benefits can be off the table if you are lactose intolerant.
The irritating gastrointestinal effects that occur when people with lactose intolerance eat a lot of dairy makes these benefits not worth it for many people, unless they take a lactase supplement to prevent the gastrointestinal side effects.
Lactase supplements are most effective when taken with solid food. Lactase itself is a digestive enzyme that breaks down the sugar lactose into digestible constituents that your body can absorb.
However, it takes some time for lactase to work, so consuming a lactase supplement on an empty stomach, then drinking a glass of milk, could still produce symptoms of lactose intolerance. This was the conclusion of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (4).
In it, researchers used an objective measure of lactose-digesting bacteria activity to demonstrate that lactose was better-absorbed by the body when a lactase supplement was taken alongside solid food, versus when it was taken on an empty stomach.
The reason for this, according to the authors, is that having solid food in your stomach slows the rate at which food and drink empty out of your stomach, which gives the lactase supplement more time to work.
This implies that lactase supplements are going to be most effective for large meals that happen to contain dairy, but may not work as well for liquid dairy products eaten without any other food.
People respond differently to the same dose of lactase. Because the natural levels of lactase vary in your body, and because the rate your body digests food differs from other people, the dose and timing of lactase that works for someone else may not work the same for you.
This was demonstrated in a 1992 study in the journal Clinical Pharmacology, in which 24 subjects took the exact same dose of lactose-containing milk on two occasions: once after taking a lactase supplement, and once after taking a placebo (5).
The researchers measured the amount of lactose that was digested by bacteria in the stomach (versus absorbed by the body) and found that there was quite a lot of person to person variability.
Three people experienced essentially no improvement after taking the lactase supplement, and at the same time, three different subjects had huge decreases in the amount of lactose taken up by intestinal bacteria. Most subjects demonstrated a marked improvement, though.
While a pessimistic interpretation of this finding suggests that lactase won’t work for some people, this experiment did use the “worst case”—a large, liquid dose of lactose on an empty stomach. If you find that a lactase supplement isn’t getting rid of your gastrointestinal symptoms after eating dairy, you can try a higher dosage.
Since lactase is an enzyme that is naturally produced by your body, it’s very rare to develop any side effects as a result of taking a lactase supplement.
The medical literature has documented a few cases of allergy to lactase supplements, but these are extremely rare (6).
Typically, the people who develop an allergy to lactase are workers at supplement factories who are exposed to large amounts of lactase on a day-to-day basis.
The amount of lactase that you need is going to depend both on the severity of your lactose intolerance, and the quantity of lactose present in the food you are eating.
Someone with fairly mild lactose intolerance eating something like cheese, which does not have very much lactose in it, may only need a 1000-3000 unit dose of lactase.
However, the scientific literature typically uses larger doses of 9000 units to demonstrate the efficacy of taking a lactase supplement (7).
You may need to experiment a bit, both with dosage level and with your timing of pre-meal lactase supplement ingestion, before you strike a combination that works for you.
What happens when lactose intolerant people ingest diary without a lactase supplement? Lactase is an enzyme that you can take to help your body digest dairy products. It’s essential if you are lactose intolerant but still want to enjoy some of the health benefits (or even just the taste) of dairy.
When people with lactose intolerance eat dairy products, their body can’t digest the lactose present, so bacteria in their stomach and intestines that can digest lactose proliferate, producing gas, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea.
One solution is to avoid dairy completely, but taking a lactase enzyme means you don’t need to totally cut dairy out from your diet.
When do I take lactase supplements? Typically, you take the supplement with the first bite of your meal that includes dairy. If you are still eating dairy within 30 to 45 minutes of your first dosage, you may need to take another dose to prevent discomfort. This recommendation will come from your doctor.
How do lactase supplements work? A lactase supplement is derived from yeast or fungi, and when it is taken before a meal with dairy in it, it can help hydrolyze lactose. Typically, you can find these supplements in a tablet form, and the dosage is between 6000-9000 units per meal.
Liquid drops are becoming more widely available that can be added directly to the dairy product (8). Many new products are coming to the market that have added enzymes already in the dairy products to pre-hydrolyze the lactose.
Are lactase supplements safe? A lactase supplement is a lactase enzyme that is supposed to be naturally occurring in your body. If you follow the directions of the product and receive a second opinion from your doctor or pharmacist to make sure the product is right for you, they are entirely safe to use.
Can I take lactase supplements if I am pregnant? The evidence on whether or not a lactase supplement is suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women is inconclusive, and there is just not enough research to make a recommendation. Err on the side of caution and avoid using or consult your doctor before taking the supplement.
Do lactase supplements cause constipation? Constipation is a typical side effect of lactose intolerance. If you are experiencing this after taking a lactase supplement, it could be that the supplement is not that effective for you.
How often should I take lactase supplements? Lactase supplements should be taken every time you are about to consume dairy. These supplements are safe to take daily, but it will depend on the individual how the body will react to them, and how effective they are.
How effective are lactase supplements? The results can widely vary, but studies have shown that there can be some significant improvement in symptoms in most people versus placebo with a certain amount of dairy (9).
Factors that play a role in the efficiency can include the dosage, the individual’s stomach PH, how much dairy is consumed, their bile salt concentration, and the origin of the enzymes (10).
Do I need a prescription for lactase supplements? No. Most supplements are available over the counter.
What types of lactase supplements are available for lactose intolerance? There are many lactase supplements available on the market today, and they come in many forms. Brands like Lactogest, which is a soft gel capsule, Lactaid, which is a caplet, and DairyEase, which is a chewable tablet, offer variety for lactose-intolerant consumers.
Can children take lactase supplements? It is suggested that children over four can take lactase supplements. Still, it’s always recommended to read and follow the label of the specific supplement you are purchasing. There are some supplements developed specifically for children, and your doctor or pharmacist can suggest one that might work the best for your child.
What happens when lactase pills don’t work? If a considerable amount of dairy is consumed, you may have discomfort that you would typically have after consuming dairy. If your body isn’t susceptible to the lactase supplement, you may have your usual symptoms of intolerance as well.
Typical symptoms include bloating, gas, vomiting, pain or cramping, gurgling or rumbling sounds in your stomach, constipation, or diarrhea. If you show any other unusual symptoms, please contact your doctor or pharmacist.
Can you naturally increase your body’s lactase? Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to increase your body’s production of lactase naturally.
When is the best time to try a new lactase supplement? Some experts will suggest trying a new supplement during the re-introduction phase of a FODMAP elimination diet to judge the effectiveness.
Why do lactase supplements work better with different dairy products? Every dairy product has a different amount of lactase in it, and depending on how much you consume, lactase supplements will respond differently to different types of dairy. For example, some cheese types, like cheddar or parmesan, have a very low lactase content, where milk has a much more significant amount.
Can I take a lactase supplement after I’ve eaten dairy? It’s recommended that you take the supplement before ingesting dairy, or as soon as you remember to do so. However, it will not treat any symptoms once you have them.
Are there any medications that interact negatively with lactase supplements? There are no reported drug interactions, but if you are concerned about a medication you are taking, please consult your physician.
How do I know I have chosen a safe lactase supplement? When choosing to add a new supplement to your diet, you want to do your research. Choosing a well-known brand that has an excellent reputation, and is sold in a reputable store is more likely to have stricter protocols for a higher quality product.
If you want a second opinion on your research, consult your doctor or pharmacist, and they can recommend a product that is right for you.
What should I do if I miss a dose? Take the dose as soon as you remember, but do not double up on doses or take extra.
What if I accidentally take too much of a dosage? Because the supplement is a naturally occurring enzyme in the body for most people, there is no real concern for taking too much. If you have taken a large number of pills, please contact poison control or a medical professional if you are concerned. You will need to provide them with the details of how much you’ve taken and when, and they can advise you on the best course of action.
If you are new t0 taking a lactase supplement, how should you take it the first time? It’s recommended that you take a high dosage of the supplement, as advised by your doctor and test it with a small amount of dairy. The discomfort caused by lactose intolerance can be unpleasant, so you don’t want to eat a lot the first time you try a new supplement in case it’s not the right one for you.
Different products have different recommendations, so read and follow the label of your product of choice. Depending on how severe your intolerance is combined with how your body responds to the supplement will determine how your body reacts. It’s impossible to give a specific dosage, so there will be some trial and error in the beginning.
Will a lactase supplement be effective the first time? Typically, if your body will respond well to the supplement and you do not have such a severe intolerance that makes supplements ineffective, you should see success the first time you use it. If you start with a higher dosage to treat a smaller amount of dairy, you should know immediately whether or not this product is right for you.
Is there lactose in other products that are not dairy? Lactose can be hidden in other foods aside from dairy products. Salad dressings, protein powders, bread, soups, deli meats, candies, treats, and many more all have lactose in them. Ensure you’re reading the label of every product you purchase and prevent your symptoms with a supplement before consuming.
There can also be hidden lactose in over the counter medications, used as filler. Be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are lactose intolerant before you start taking a new drug. If you have no choice but to take a medication with lactose in it, take a supplement before you take your medication.
Can lactase supplements help cure my lactose intolerance? Unfortunately, there is no known cure for lactose intolerance, just supplements that help your body digest the dairy products you love.
Is taking a lactose supplement comparable to having a natural lactase level? Taking a supplement will not be the same as having the natural enzyme produced in your body, but it will help reduce the symptoms of discomfort that come with lactose intolerance. A lactose intolerant person can take a supplement, but should still eat a reduced amount of dairy for the best results.
Does a lactase supplement work for everyone? In short, no. Some individuals have a much more severe intolerance to dairy that a supplement of any dosage may not work at all. Sometimes their body will not respond to the treatment, and they won’t receive any benefits. The effect of lactase supplements is different for every individual based on their severity of intolerance and reaction to the enzyme.
Luckily, there are many delicious alternative products on the market and dairy products with the lactose removed to accommodate these individuals, which are becoming more and more common. With such a large portion of the world’s population being some level of lactose intolerant, dairy companies are working hard to provide more options to their customers.
Are digestive enzyme supplements considered lactase supplements? No, digestive enzyme supplements are not considered lactase supplements. While they may contain some lactase enzymes, they usually contain a blend of other digestive enzymes, providing more of an overall digestive support effect.
This is not ideal for lactose intolerant people who need a powerful lactase supplement to help avoid digestion issues when consuming dairy products.
Dairy products offer a lot of health benefits, but unfortunately, people who have lactose intolerance are often prevented from taking advantage of these benefits.
A lactase supplement is a way to get around this. By consuming the enzyme that helps your body digest lactose in a supplement, you prevent the gas-producing bacteria in your stomach and intestines from digesting the lactose.
A lactase supplement works best at a dose of 3000 to 9000 units of lactase, though the specific dosage and pre-meal timing will vary from person to person, and will also vary according to the lactose content of the meal.
Aged dairy foods like cheese have less lactose, while fresh dairy products like milk have more. Finally, a lactase supplement tends to work better when you take it with food, because this slows down the rate at which lactose leaves your stomach.
Because it stays in proximity to the lactase enzymes longer, more of the lactose gets broken down, and you’re less likely to have gastrointestinal symptoms.
Once you get the dosage and timing right, a lactase supplement can be a game changer for people who want to enjoy the taste and the health benefits of dairy foods, but can’t because their body doesn’t produce lactase naturally anymore.
For Bodynutrition’s #1 recommended lactase supplement, click here.