If eating dairy foods or drinking milk causes you to experience abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and nausea, you may be one of 6.1 million Americans who are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest lactose – the main type of sugar found in dairy products. Lactose intolerance occurs when your gut produces either a reduced concentration of lactase enzyme or does not produce lactase at all.
Living with lactose intolerance doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite dairy foods, including ice cream, milkshakes, cheese, and yogurt. Fortunately, there are plenty of tactics that can help you deal with lactose intolerance, especially if you’ve recently been diagnosed with lactose intolerance and are new to cutting off lactose from your diet.
Let’s talk about a few tips and tricks that can help you live with lactose intolerance.
Understanding Your Lactose Limit
Having lactose intolerance does not necessitate you to altogether avoid dairy foods. You can still eat your favorite foods but in moderation. Symptoms of lactose intolerance and foods that cause these symptoms vary from person to person. All you need is to know your limit. For this purpose, you can keep a food diary, and every time you eat something, write down what and how much you ate and how it made you feel. This will help you learn how much lactose you can have and what foods you should avoid completely.
Taking Lactase to Digest Lactose
If you have iron deficiency, your doctor may prescribe you iron supplements. Similarly, if you’re lactose intolerant, you can take lactase enzymes as a supplement. Lactase comes in caplets, chewable tablets, or liquid form. You can take it before consuming any dairy product to avoid uncomfortable symptoms. Lactase supplements are beneficial when you don’t know the exact ingredients in your meal.
Beware Of Products with Hidden Lactose
Lactose is found in all dairy food products, except lactose-free milk and cheese products. It can also be in egg substitutes, batter coatings, meats containing the pesky sugar and baked goods, including sugar substitutes, flavourants on chips, crackers, and salad dressings.
You should develop a habit of reading all food labels carefully and watching out for “dried milk,” “milk solids,” and “curd” as ingredients in your food products. When dining out, ask about ingredients and order lactose-free food to avoid lactose altogether.
Find Suitable Replacement Products
Finding suitable replacements is one of the best options if you love dairy products and don’t want to cut them out of your diet. You can eat hard cheeses instead of soft cheese, including most cheddars, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Romano cheese. Hard cheese is considered safe for lactose intolerant individuals, because lactose is changed into lactic acid as the cheese ages.
You can also replace traditional cow milk with soy, almond, and rice milk. These milk replacements are also a good source of calcium.
Get Tested for Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is not life-threatening, but its symptoms can adversely affect your quality of life. If symptoms of lactose intolerance are causing you embarrassment or interfering with your daily life, you can get tested for lactose intolerance to receive adequate treatment and avoid embarrassment. Lactose intolerance can be tested by a hydrogen breath test or blood test. During the hydrogen breath test, if your hydrogen level is high, it indicates you are lactose intolerant. Similarly, if your doctor notices no change in your sugar level during blood testing, it could mean you are lactose intolerant.
Lactose Intolerance Testing in Westlake and Brooklyn, OH
If you think you are a possible candidate for lactose intolerance testing, visit us at North Shore Gastroenterology & Endoscopy Centers for a hydrogen breath test or schedule a consultation with one of our GI doctors at North Shore Gastroenterology.
If you are tested positive for lactose intolerance, our board-certified gastroenterologists will give you diet recommendations to help you avoid the uncomfortable symptoms of lactose intolerance.