While it is a relief for most people to find out the underlying cause of their symptoms, the thought of dealing with a lifelong condition can be frustrating. Lactose-intolerant people find it reassuring to learn that the condition is relatively common and most people who are lactose intolerant can eat and drink essentially normally in their day-to-day lives with little to no discomfort. They learn to listen to their bodies and figure out how much dairy they can handle.
The symptoms associated with lactose intolerance may be eased by trying out some the following tips:
- Limit the amount of dairy in your diet – it may simply be that all that is needed is cutting back a little on milk and milk products.
- Know your lactose limit – every person will have a different tolerance level. You should listen to your body – it will tell you when you’ve reached your limit.
- Keep a food diary to see if a pattern emerges on how much lactose you can tolerate and whether you tolerate some types of dairy better than others.
- Control portion sizes of milk products – smaller portions may equal fewer symptoms.
- Drink lactose-free milk or low-lactose milk.
- Learn to love yogurt – yogurt with live cultures (not frozen) contains bacteria that help break down lactose.
- Use substitutes like soy milk, soy cheese, and non-dairy creamer.
- Choose the type of dairy you consume – 250 mL of fat-free milk contains a whopping 13 grams of lactose and provides 300 mg of calcium, whereas 30 grams of cheddar cheese contains a miniscule 0.15 grams of lactose yet still provides 200 mg of calcium.
- Pick hard, aged cheeses like Swiss, parmesan and cheddar that have lower lactose content compared to soft and creamy cheeses like Brie.
- Combine milk and milk products with other solid foods like cereal – dairy as a side may be better tolerated than dairy as the main component of your meal.
- Restore the balance in your gut with probiotics – these microorganisms are “good” bacteria that can ease symptoms of lactose intolerance.
- Choose wisely – when reaching for a slice of four-cheese pizza, remember how bloated, crampy, and uncomfortable you felt the last time you ate one – pick a salad or sandwich instead.
- Ask servers at restaurants for information on milk-containing items and skip creamy sauces and condiments like sour cream.
- Buy a cookbook with lactose-free recipes and try them out. Mediterranean and Asian cuisines tend to rely less on dairy products.
- Experiment with simpler cooking using fresh ingredients and fewer prepared foods.
- Consult a nutritionist or dietician – learning a new way of eating isn’t easy, but experts can help teach you to read labels and implement healthy eating habits.
- Hunt for hidden lactose: Many prepared foods contain lactose and people with lactose intolerance should habitually read labels for the lactose content in foods they buy and eat.
- Spot the lactose in disguise: Aliases for lactose include dry milk solids, whey, curds, milk byproducts, and dry milk powder and you should look out for these on labels.
THE BIG CHALLENGES:
The biggest challenge of living with lactose intolerance is meeting your body’s calcium needs. Adults need about 1000 mg of calcium a day, which is about three 8-ounce glasses of milk. In a lactose-intolerant person, this could be one glass too many. Thankfully, in addition to calcium-fortified juices, cereals, and soy products, there are several options.
NON-DAIRY SOURCES OF CALCIUM:
- White beans (calcium content 60 mg in 1/2 cup cooked)
- Oranges (calcium content 75 mg in 1 large orange or 25 mg in a cup of juice)
- Almonds (calcium content 75 mg in about 25 whole almonds)
- Bok Choy (Chinese cabbage) ( calcium content 75 mg in 1 cup shredded)
- Okra (calcium content 80 mg in 1 cup)
- Broccoli (calcium content 80 mg in 2 cups raw)
- Edamame (immature soya beans in pods) ( calcium content 90 mg in 1 cup cooked)
- Kale (calcium content 100 mg in 1 cup raw)
- Figs (calcium content 120 mg in 1/2 cup dried)
- Canned salmon (calcium content 230 mg in 1/2 a can)
- Collard greens (calcium content approximately 250 mg in 1 cup cooked)
- Sardines (calcium content 350 mg in a 3.75-ounce can)
- Tofu (calcium content 430 mg in 1/2 a cup)
LACTOSE-CONTAINING FOODS TO AVOID:
- Breads and baked goods.
- Frozen meals.
- Breakfast cereals and instant breakfast drinks.
- Instant potatoes and instant soups.
- Dry pancake, cookie, and biscuit mixes.
- Margarine and salad dressings.
- Milk chocolate, candies, and other snacks.
You should be aware that some prescription medicines, including birth control pills, and some over-the-counter drugs, such as tablets to ease stomach acid or gas also contain lactose. Talk to your physician about alternatives if you think your symptoms are exacerbated by a medication you are on.
With trial and error, most lactose intolerant people will learn to manage their symptoms enough to be able to eat and drink with little to no discomfort.