Lactose intolerance is the inability of the small intestines to break down and absorb the sugar lactose due to a shortage of the enzyme lactase. This can lead to various unpleasant symptoms, including bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
If you have lactose intolerance, don’t panic. You aren’t alone. The condition is extremely common, with approximately 36% to 68% of the global population suffering from the digestive disorder.
You aren’t out of options, either. There are many ways to manage lactose intolerance to restore a sense of enjoyment and nutrition to your eating.
what to avoid in a lactose intolerance?
One of the simplest ways to avoid discomfort when you’re lactose intolerant is by avoiding foods that have lactose in them. While many foods fall into that category, some of the most important ones to look out for include:
- Milk and dairy products.
- Whipped cream and other cream-based products.
- Cheeses (especially soft, fresh products such as cream cheese and cottage cheese).
- Desserts with milk, such as cookies, cakes, ice cream, and milkshakes.
You can curb your lactose intake in one of two ways. If you have a severe reaction to lactose, you can adopt a lactose-free diet. This avoids all foods with lactose — especially since even “lactose-free” versions of products often still contain trace quantities of the sugar.
If, however, your intolerance is less concerning and merely uncomfortable, you can probably eat foods like butter, kefir, and yogurt that contain minor quantities of lactose.
In most cases, when you shift to a low lactose diet or lactose-free diet, you should feel relief from symptoms within 48 hours (i.e. once the lactose in your system works its way out).
what can you eat in a lactose intolerance?
Fortunately, there are also many things you can still eat when suffering from lactose intolerance, below is a helpful list of food items that are completely lactose-free and a list of foods that are low in lactose.
foods that are lactose-free (0 grams of lactose per serving):
- Plant-based dairy
- Hard cheeses (mature/old Gouda cheese, grana padano, parmigiano)
foods low in lactose (0-4 grams of lactose per serving):
- Soft (aged) cheeses (brie, camembert, feta, mascarpone)
- Hard cheeses (Edam, cheddar, goat cheese)
Depending on how sensitive you are to lactose, you can choose to stick to a lactose-free diet, or a lactose-restricted diet, where you still consume small amounts of lactose.
Therefore, depending on the degree of intolerance, what exactly your diet should look like to prevent symptoms. Children often make a little more of the lactase enzyme and can often tolerate larger amounts of lactose than older people. This, of course, varies from person to person.
using enzymes to control lactose digestion
A lactose intolerance diet is a great first step in managing lactose intolerance. However, you may find that the effort to cut that many foods out of your life is difficult to maintain — especially in select cases.
For instance, you may find that you have no food options at a holiday party or family dinner. If you’re traveling, you may not be able to access food brands and choices that you know are lined up with a lactose diet. There may even be times when you simply want to indulge in a food, like a milkshake or a piece of cake, that you haven’t been able to have for a long time.
When that’s the case, you can use a food enzyme supplement to give your body a temporary stock of lactase. Lactase is the enzyme required to break down lactose. It is either produced in insufficient quantities or, in severe cases, not produced at all in the digestive systems of those with lactose intolerance.
Supplementing with Intoleran’s lactase gives the body the missing enzymes it needs to break down any troublesome foods. The product comes in multiple formats. Tablets and capsules can be taken with water right before eating. The latter can also be opened and sprinkled on the food itself. (Just make sure it isn’t too hot!)
You can also mix the drops format into milk beforehand, reducing the lactose content by as much as 80% in 24 hours. This is ideal for baking and cooking where liquid ingredients with lactose are required.
Finally, we have our once a day capsules that only require a single dose every 24 hours. These are loaded with probiotics that help digest dairy products throughout the day — without the need to keep them close by every time you eat.
Between a lactose diet and utilizing lactase enzyme supplements, it’s perfectly possible to manage a lactose intolerance.
The important thing is taking the time to gauge the severity of your condition. From there, create an eating strategy to help you enjoy your food again without paying the price afterward.