Regardless of whether you were recently diagnosed with lactose intolerance, or it’s been a while since your diagnosis, living with lactose intolerance can be challenging if you don’t know what’s fact and what’s fiction.
First, what exactly is lactose intolerance? Lactose intolerance is the body’s inability to completely digest lactose, a sugar that occurs naturally in milk and milk products. If you are lactose intolerant, your body does not produce enough lactase to fully digest and absorb this milk sugar. This leads to discomfort such as bloating, diarrhea, gas, nausea, and/or abdominal pain.
Common sources of lactose besides milk include:
- Ice milk
- Cottage cheese
- Ice cream
If you are diagnosed with lactose intolerance, it does not necessarily mean you have to give up milk and your favorite milk products completely – you may just need to make some small changes to your diet, depending on your tolerance level.
Here are some tips to help make living with lactose intolerance easier:
- Carefully read all of the labels and ingredients on food packaging. Food items that are labeled “non-dairy,” “lactose-reduced,” or “lactose-free” might still contain some lactose.
- When you go out to eat, ask if the item you want to order contains any dairy ingredients. If it does, and depending on the item, ask if the ingredient can be served on the side, such as butter for toast (serve the toast dry).
- Some medications contain lactose. Check with your pharmacist to see if any medications you’re taking contain lactose, and ask about alternative medications.
- If you completely remove lactose from your diet, try reintroducing lactose back into your meals slowly, and be sure to monitor when you first experience symptoms by keeping a log.
- To make sure you’re getting enough calcium into your diet to help avoid osteoporosis, consume more calcium-rich non-dairy food items such as tofu, canned salmon, broccoli, and cooked leafy greens. Experiment with milk substitutes such as soy, rice, and almond milk. You can also take a calcium supplement. Keep a food log of how much calcium you’re consuming each day. The recommended amount is 1,000 mg/day (age 19-50) and 1,200 mg/day (age 51 and older).