Monday, April 28, 2014

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance seems to be a buzzword in today’s world. Most of us know the term means some type of issue with milk, but what is it exactly? Does it vary in intensity? And how do you know if you have lactose intolerance?

Lactose is the sugar found in milk and dairy products and can cause problems when the body does not produce enough lactase to digest it. When you are unable to properly process lactose in your body, you can experience a host of symptoms, including but not limited to:

  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Headache
  • Discomfort and/or gurgling in your belly

The best way to be diagnosed is by a doctor – not self-diagnoses! But if you notice that you have digestive issues when you consume dairy, it’s worth monitoring your symptoms until you are able to see a doctor.

If you discover that you are intolerant of lactose, it can feel like the world – at least, your eating world – is coming to an end. And truthfully, those with severe lactose intolerance may have to limit their menu. But food intolerances often span a spectrum. So if you discover that you are lactose intolerant, don’t count all as lost just yet.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may need to allow some time for your digestive system to heal after exposure to lactose. But once you are feeling well, you can start to experiment with your tolerance to lactose. For some people, you can have a small amount per day. Other people can have a serving or two per week without symptoms. Lactase supplements may help with your tolerance.

Foods like hard cheeses and Greek yogurt often digest a bit easier, compared to milk and ice cream. Be patient, and try a few foods at a time. If you have a severe reaction to a trial food, give your system time to heal before trying another food. You might also consider diary products from animals other than cows. Goat yogurt, milk, and cheese is often tolerated by those with lactose intolerance. 

If you discover that your reaction to dairy is severe – or you simply want to avoid it – there are plenty of alternatives! From coconut milk yogurt, to rice-based cheeses, you do not need to feel deprived. Insider tip: eat soy and rice-based cheeses as part of recipes, rather than alone. Remember that they are made of different ingredients, so there will be some taste/texture differences. But with some trial and error, you’ll find the ones that work best for your tastes and recipes. (For example, check out this dairy free macaroni and cheese recipe!)

If you are game to try to heal your intolerance, some medical professionals believe you may be able to cure it. With time and persistence, you may find relief, or perhaps, just higher tolerance.

So, if you find yourself facing a dairy intolerance, take one step at a time. It’s an opportunity to find new toppings for your burger, play with new pizza recipes, and explore flavor combinations you’ve never experienced. And as you explore, keep us posted on your progress!

What dairy-free recipes have you tried that you’ve loved?

Contributing Writer

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