Thorne Verified: Dairy-Free

Thorne Verified - Dairy Free

Every Thorne product is made with the purest possible ingredients. Products with our Dairy-Free Certification have been thoroughly tested to ensure they are dairy-free. The terms milk allergy and lactose intolerance are sometimes referred to as the same thing - when they are actually different. On this page, we'll help you navigate what you need to know about dairy-free, including: the difference between milk allergy and milk intolerance, the health concerns most commonly associated with milk, which dietary supplements can contain hidden sources of lactose, what Thorne is doing to assure your supplements don't contain hidden lactose or dairy protein, and which nutritional deficiencies are associated with milk allergy.

Which foods contain milk and why should I care?

Cow's milk, and foods derived from cow's milk, cause the most common food allergies or food intolerances in the American diet. Milk is the most common food allergen in infants and young children, with 2-3 percent of children under age three developing an allergy to milk. And when looking at those children with food allergies, just over half of them have a milk allergy.

Lactose intolerance is more prevalent than milk allergy, affecting as much as 65 percent of the world population - most commonly in individuals of Eastern Asian, West African, Italian, Arab, Jewish, and Greek descent.

Due to the prevalence of lactose intolerance and dairy allergies, it is important to know which foods contain ingredients derived from cow's milk. The milk of other animals - such as goat, sheep, buffalo, and other mammals - might pose a problem as well, although these less commonly consumed products are often easier to tolerate.

Obvious dairy products include milk, cream, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir, cheese, ice cream, pudding, custard, and gelato. But milk derivatives are often hidden in other foods, such as baked goods, chocolate, sausage, meat loaf, meat balls, artificial butter or cheese flavor, and even in some canned tuna (listed as hydrolyzed caseinate).

By federal law, food labels must indicate when a food contains an ingredient derived from milk. The eight most common food allergens, which includes milk, must be listed separately and in bold font at the end of the ingredient list. But identifying hidden milk might not be so easy when the product, such as a muffin from a bakery, doesn't have a label. Other text on a label that denotes milk includes whey, casein/caseinate, lactalbumin, lactate solids, or pretty much any word starting with "lact-".

What's the difference between milk allergy and lactose intolerance?

A milk allergy manifests when the body mounts an immune reaction to the proteins in milk - most commonly casein (the curds) or beta-lactoglobulin and/or alpha-lactalbumin (the whey proteins). Milk allergy symptoms can be acute and severe - hives, wheezing, throat swelling, anaphylaxis - or they can be milder - nasal congestion, skin rashes, and diarrhea or other GI symptoms. The milder symptoms might take longer to appear after ingesting a food with milk proteins in it.

Casein, an important protein in making cheese, is found mostly in cheese, quark (cross between yogurt and cottage cheese), butter, yogurt, and cream. Adults are more commonly allergic to casein than to the proteins in whey.

Whey proteins - alpha-lactalbumin and beta-lactoglobulin - are present in fresh milk, dried protein powders, and hydrolyzed dairy products, such as baby food. An allergy to whey proteins is more likely to occur in young children. Because whey proteins are not heat stable, cooked dairy products are sometimes better tolerated.

Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is a reaction to the carbohydrate content in milk, not the protein. Lactose is a sugar in milk that is comprised of two simple sugars - glucose and galactose. Lactose is normally broken down to these two one-molecule sugars by an enzyme - lactase. However, when an individual is deficient in lactase, lactose is not broken down and the result can be gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and other GI complaints.

What does Thorne do to ensure there is no hidden lactose or milk proteins in your dietary supplement?

It's called "supply chain transparency." Thorne tracks all raw materials back to our vendors, who must verify the presence or absence of allergens, including milk. Then, when the raw materials arrive at our facility, every ingredient for every product is quarantined when it first enters our facility. Allergen-containing ingredients are separated by allergen - milk, soy, fish, shellfish, etc. - and quarantined until they can be tested and moved into production. All ventilation systems are closed systems to avoid cross-contamination. After production of a particular product, the manufacturing equipment used is completely taken apart and thoroughly cleaned before it is used again to make another product.

On the rare occasion when there is concern about potential contamination, the product is tested for the presence of milk protein in our in-house, state-of-the-art laboratory. Our lab uses the well-known and well-accepted Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) method to analyze for amino acid sequences that would indicate the presence of milk proteins.

What are some hidden sources of lactose in dietary supplements?

Lactose is used as a base material for as much as 20 percent of prescription drugs and 6 percent of over-the-counter drugs. But, did you know that many nutritional supplement ingredients are routinely diluted with lactose? Some supplement ingredients commonly diluted with lactose include vitamin D, pancreatin, pepsin, and bromelain. Also, some emulsifying agents that enable fat-soluble substances to dissolve more easily in water can contain a hidden milk ingredient. Thorne has prided itself since day one (1984) in refusing to purchase raw materials diluted with lactose.

For example, pancreatin is often labeled as 3x, 5x, etc. That means that it is three times or five times as potent as the U.S. Pharmacopeia standard. However, unless the pancreatin is 9x, it has been diluted with something - most often with lactose. Thorne's pancreatin supplement is called Dipan-9 - the 9 representing 9x potency - the way it comes naturally from its porcine source.

Milk allergy/intolerance and nutrient deficiencies

The three most common nutrient deficiencies in children and adults who are unable to tolerate dairy products are calcium, vitamin D, and protein - primarily because of decreased intake of these important nutrients. Dairy products are a major source of dietary calcium and protein. Although there are not many food sources of vitamin D, milk is commonly fortified with vitamin D - in other words, it doesn't occur naturally in the milk so it's added.

FAQs About Thorne's Vegan Products

Q: I've read that to make enzymes less potent, they are often diluted with lactose. Are your enzyme products diluted with lactose?
A: You are correct that digestive enzymes such as bromelain, pepsin, and pancreatin are often diluted with lactose. Lactose is often added to dilute a digestive enzyme's potency to meet a particular specification. However, Thorne's bromelain, pepsin, and pancreatin are not diluted with lactose. In fact, Thorne does not have any products that contain hidden lactose.

Q: I have heard that vitamin D supplements can be diluted with lactose. Are any of Thorne's vitamin D products diluted with lactose?
A: No, none of Thorne's vitamin D supplements are diluted with lactose.

Q: Why do some supplement manufacturers dilute their products with ingredients like lactose?
A: Many supplement manufacturers purchase "micro-dose" vitamins from raw material suppliers as pre-mixed dilutions, meaning the vitamins (in powder form) are mixed with other powdered substances - like magnesium stearate and other fatty acids - that make it easier for the manufacturer to handle and mix larger quantities of raw materials. The powdered substances used in these pre-mixed dilutions frequently contain potentially detrimental ingredients such as lactose and/or preservatives like BHT, BHA, sodium benzoate, and sorbic acid. Thorne's promise is to give you the purest possible supplements. Therefore, Thorne purchases undiluted vitamins and we then create our own dilutions using non-allergenic powders, such as magnesium citrate or cellulose. The resultant pre-mixture is then added to the nutritional supplement being made, thus ensuring the proper amount of each nutrient is contained in each capsule, every time. And that's why, unlike many vitamin D supplements, Thorne's vitamin D product suite contains no lactose or preservatives (BHA, BHT, sodium benzoate, etc).