Exposed: Hidden Dairy Products in Medications

Did you know that medications that you take every day could have dairy products in them? I couldn’t believe it when I started having allergy attacks after taking my allergy medication. Can you say IRONY? But there it was, in small print on the label the name of a hidden dairy product, “lactose monohydrate”. Many medications have these small amounts of dairy products in them and are exemptions under the FDA regulation for allergen labeling so it is easy to miss them.

Thousands of generic and branded prescription medications, as well as over-the-counter, contain lactose and other dairy products. As I’ve dealt with this myself, I’ve found hidden dairy in the allergy medications, pill-based birth control, and even pain-killers. My doctor and pharmacist were both unaware of this issue, even though I had listed my allergy on all of my paperwork. I say this so if you’re in a similar situation you know what you’re up against.

Dairy Additives

Lactose is a popular medicine additive because it is somewhat sweet and counteracts the bitter taste of medication. It also is a binding agent. Often alternative medications use talc instead, which comes with it’s own set of problems and possible cancer-causing concerns.

Dairy contains two different proteins: whey, which contains lactose, and casein, which is the addictive substance in dairy and is highest in cheese products. For the many people who have lactose intolerance, products that contain hidden dairy will not be an issue based on the small amount of the product it contains. However for people who have a dairy allergy, whether to the whey/lactose protein or casein, hidden dairy can create massive issues, including anaphylactic shock.

Because the FDA has cleared these dairy derivatives as non-allergen elements, they are not required to be listed on the label of food or medication. Check out the FDA’s website list of dairy terminology exemptions to read more about the “reasons why” and check the big name corporations behind these requests.

No matter what the FDA claims, these hidden dairy products continue to cause people with dairy allergies reactions. Cross contamination concerns are high, even in the smallest amount used as a filler ingredient.

Often we take prescriptions an over-the-counter medication without considering the inactive ingredients it contains. The thought typically is that ibuprophen is an ibuprophen, no matter what, but each brand name or generic choose different inactive ingredients, dyes, and manufacturing process. There are alternatives for many medication that contain hidden dairy products, but there are some that I have not found an alternative for, including hormonal birth control. Let me know if you’ve found one!

Below is a list of terms for hidden dairy that I watch out for in medication.

Names for Hidden Dairy in Medications:

  • Casein (and other caseinates)
  • Hydrolysates
  • Lactates / Lactitol / Lactose
  • Wheys
  • Concerning words: Lactic Acid, Natural Flavoring

Check out the extensive list here.

If you do not have the original packaging that your medicine came in, check a website like RX List where you can search based on the pills appearance and stamp number.


Were you aware of the hidden dairy in your medications? Do you have an allergy or are you trying to avoid animal products? Comment below. I’d love to hear your perspective on this and know if you have anything to add.

Whatever you do, take control of the things you’re putting in your body! Read about hidden animal products in alcohol here.

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