If you’re like many people, you love the thought of drinking a big, cold glass of milk, having a big bowl of ice cream after dinner, or even taking a bite out of a hot slice of cheesy pizza.
However, if you’re like thirty to fifty million Americans, indulging in these goodies can cause you to experience gas, cramping, and bloating. This is the face of lactose intolerance.
Milk and dairy products are a major nutrient source, and when you’re unable to properly digest an entire food group, it can make you feel like you’re missing out on something important. However, there are ways that you can still get the calcium you need without causing any of these unpleasant side effects.
Lactose Intolerance or Milk Allergy?
Many times, people assume that lactose intolerance is a milk allergy. However, the difference between the two is quite critical. If you’re lactose intolerant, that doesn’t always call for a totally milk-free diet.
However, if you have an allergic reaction to milk, even small amounts could possibly trigger a serious and negative reaction. If you are truly allergic to milk, you’ll have symptoms such as a runny nose, skin rash, puffy eyes, tightness in the throat, vomiting, and even difficulty breathing.
There is absolutely no connection between a milk allergy (an immune response to a protein) and being lactose intolerant (an enzyme deficiency).
Lactose intolerance is typically found in adults, and allergies to milk are typically seen in children. Children who develop an allergy to milk typically do within the first couple of years, and most of the time, will outgrow it. Very few people actually have milk allergies in late childhood or adulthood.
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
There are a few symptoms that go with lactose intolerance, including: painful gas and bloating, cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. Typically, the symptoms will appear approximately thirty minutes to two hours after consuming milk or other dairy products.
The severity of the symptoms will vary, depending on how much lactose your body can handle. In some cases, individuals can be quite sensitive to very small amounts of lactose, while others can consume large amounts before a flare up is triggered.
Home Remedies for Lactose Intolerance
Thankfully, unlike a milk allergy, individuals who are suffering from lactose intolerance do not have to totally cut out dairy from their diet. In fact, it has been shown that around eighty percent of those who are lactose intolerant can still drink just enough milk to get the proper nutrients.
Just how much you must avoid lactose depends on your sensitivity to it. Following are some home remedies that you can use to minimize your symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Use Lactase Products
There are lots of lactase products on the market to help those who are lactose intolerant to still be able to enjoy milk or other dairy products. You can sprinkle a lactase enzyme powder or drop a few drops of the liquid into milk so the lactose is predigested for you.
However, you must know that this needs to be done 24 hours before you plan on consuming the milk. Another option is to take a lactase tablet right after you consume a dairy product.
Determine How Lactose Intolerant You Are
The severity of lactose intolerance varies from person to person. The best way to figure this out is to get all lactose out of your system by avoiding it for three to four weeks. Then, slowly begin to add lactose back to your diet. Pay attention to how much dairy you can consume without triggering a reaction. Once you have this information, managing it will become much easier.
Pay Attention to Milk Percentage
Fat actually slows down the passage of lactose through your system, which gives your body more time to digest it. So, if you have a problem with skim milk, but you don’t want the fat and calories that come from whole milk, drink one or two percent instead.
Consume Small Servings
You may not be able to handle drinking a full eight ounce glass at once, but you may be able to tolerate drinking it in smaller portions. Try a third of a cup in the morning, a third in the afternoon, and a third at night. This way, you’re getting the nutrients from the milk and not triggering an intolerance reaction.
Don’t Consume Dairy Alone
If you plan on eating cheese or drinking milk, do it with a meal or snack. When you consume dairy on an empty stomach, your symptoms can become worse.
Pay Attention to Labels
Lactose is actually used in many processed foods that you may not expect. In order to find these, read the labels on the foods before you buy them. Keep in mind that some breads, pancakes, cereals, soups, chocolate, sherbet, puddings, candies, salad dressings, and more all contain some form of lactose. While it’s typically small amounts, those who have lower levels of tolerance will experience symptoms from these.
Remedies from the Cupboard
Studies have shown that cocoa powder and sugar, or chocolate powders, actually help the body to digest the lactose because it slows down the rate that the stomach empties. The slower this process, the slower the lactose goes through your body at once.
Sardines are very high in calcium, which is most likely lacking if you’re not consuming milk or other dairy products. Other foods high in calcium include: canned salmon, dark leafy greens, cooked dried beans, tofu, sesame seed products, and dried apricots.
Remedies from the Fridge
Calcium that is in chocolate milk absorbs just as well as regular milk and in some cases, people can tolerate flavored milk better than plain.
If cheese is one of your favorite foods, choose the hard cheeses, such as Cheddar, Colby, and Swiss. The harder a cheese, the lower the amount of lactose it contains. Skip the soft cheeses, including cottage cheese, cream cheese, and any of the spreadable cheeses.
Soy milk is a bit of a shock as far as flavor if you’re used to drinking cow’s milk, but it’s not going to cause a lactose intolerance reaction. If you’re not able to get used to the taste, use it in products and recipes that call for milk.
Research has shown that yogurt containing active cultures is a great source for calcium for those with lactose intolerance, even though it does contain high amounts of lactose. Evidence has shown that the bacterial cultures used in yogurt actually produce some lactase, which is necessary for proper digestion of lactose. If you can tolerate yogurt, it’s a great idea to include it in your diet.
Having lactose intolerance doesn’t mean that you can’t have milk or any other dairy products. As long as you properly plan and take proper precautions, you can still enjoy the lactose foods that you love so much. Use these home remedies and figure out which ones work best for you.