For the millions of people affected by Lactose Intolerance, the symptoms that arise can be extremely uncomfortable and even debilitating at times. The disorder can develop as early as infanthood and as late as middle age, and it is often difficult to find prepared foods that do not contain lactose in some variety. Here are a number of tips to assist you in determining which foods have high concentrations of lactose, and what can be done in order to prevent the common side effects this gastro-intestinal disorder brings about.
1. Identifying Foods with Milk and Milk by-products
It would appear that this would be common knowledge, but what many people fail to realize is the amount of everyday foods that are found on grocery shelves which contain Milk based ingredients. Items to avoid that may contain traces of Lactose are:
– White Breads (loaves and rolls, and specialty type breads)
– Lunch Meats
– Hot Dogs
– Egg Substitutes and Powdered Eggs
– Dips and Spreads
– Salad Dressing
– Ice Cream and Sherbet
– Pudding and Custards
– Caramel, Toffee and Butterscotch
– Milk Chocolate
– Iced Tea drinks
– Cream soups and dehydrated soup mixes
– Cheese flavored products of any kind
– Some sugar substitutes
– Whey based Protein powders and drinks
Read the ingredient labels carefully. If you notice ingredients that read – Made with: Milk, Milk Ingredients, Whey, Cream, Cheese, Butter, or anything that remotely looks like it has a Milk or Milk product in it, you may want to consider placing it back upon the shelf or stocking up on some lactase enzyme medication to assist in digestion. There are times when it will be impossible to avoid foods that have lactose in them, therefore it is wise to eat these foods in slight moderation, and avoid any milk based product for a few days in order to allow your intestines to repopulate itself with the necessary bacteria used in regular digestion.
2. Finding Substitutes and Solutions
Now that the problem foods have been isolated and identified, you will need to make a conscious effort to adding foods to substitute ones that are too harsh on your system. There are many people who have a difficult time breaking with their dietary habits, so there are healthier substitutes that can be implemented in their place.
If you can’t live without milk or cream: There are a number of Lactose free milk options at the grocery store. Generally they tend to be a bit more expensive, but for your intestinal health it is a necessary evil. This Lactose free milk comes in regular, low-fat and skim versions to suit your tastes. There are also milk products that do not use any dairy whatsoever. These Vegan options are quite similar in texture to normal milk, and are extremely easy to digest. The only drawback is the taste – it takes some time to accustom yourself to. Look for Soy based milk, Rice based milk or Almond Milk. All three options are Vegan friendly and Digestive friendly.
If you can’t live without cheese: Similar to Lactose free milk, there are a growing variety of Lactose free cheese types available. The easiest option is to adopt the Vegan substitutes, as they retain the similar consistency and flavor as normal cheese, without the lactose or animal product. The majority of Lactose free cheese is soy based, but there are also Tree nut based options as well as cassava and arrowroot. The latter products are harder to obtain and may need to be ordered from a Natural Foods store.
If you can’t live without milk in desserts or sweets: There are a number of different soy-based yogurts, puddings, and vegan styled ice creams available in grocery stores and Natural Health Food stores. As an alternative, there are desserts available that use nuts and plant based pulp to achieve the same cream like consistency needed to whip up fancy looking treats. For chocolate lovers, Dark Chocolate is a healthier and safer substitute to the common chocolate on the market. Dark Chocolate has gained significant notoriety due to its health and wellness benefits in moderate consumption. Plus, it tastes great!
If the substitutes are just not good enough to warrant switching over: There are some products that just do not please the palate. Some contain a Soy flavor that is too noticeable, or the texture is too grainy due to the omission of natural fats from the creams used. You may not be able to cook in the same manner with soy-based products since the ingredient base does not react in the same manner as milk or milk products do. In these cases, you may have to use regular milk products to fulfill your needs. In the event that you are required to ingest dairy during a meal, it is never a bad investment to keep a number of lactase enzyme medication at your disposal.
Lactase enzyme medication comes in different forms. There are liquid drops, pills and chewable tablets to provide additional enzyme support for digestion of lactose. This medication is commonly taken prior to eating foods with lactose, and is generally up to the discretion of the person eating. It is not always effective, as there are times when the amount of lactose ingested far exceeds the available lactase enzyme in your system to break down the food for proper digestion. That is when the symptoms occur, and the discomfort begins. You will only be able to determine the amount of medication necessary through trial and error. If you can successfully manage your medication and lactose intake without suffering any ill side effects, then you can continue eating the same foods you are accustomed to. Unfortunately for some, this isn’t an effective solution, and dietary changes are absolutely necessary.
Other Healthier Food Options
Many people feel that cutting or reducing dairy products from their diets will drastically alter the amount of calcium they receive on a daily basis. There are a number of sources where you can obtain your daily calcium intake that you probably did not even know about.
Foods with Calcium:
Calcium enriched Orange Juice
There are also foods which contain low amounts of lactose but are high in calcium and can be digested much easier than milk and heavier cheeses.
Look for items that are calcium enriched or fortified, if you are concerned about meeting your daily serving. You can also look into calcium supplements which are available at most drug stores.
3. Learning to live with Lactose Intolerance and be prepared for the Side Effects
Most people have come to terms with this, but there are a number of people who are still dealing with the lifestyle and dietary changes surrounding Lactose Intolerance. In order to facilitate this process, there are a few things you can do to make the transitions easier.
– Stock up on medications to relieve discomfort.
Having some medications to relieve the pain associated with Lactose Intolerance is very important. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may need a number of medications to soothe the symptoms or just one will do the trick. Look for anti-gas medications which contain simethicone. This ingredient effective dissipates any gas bubbles and air built up due to the chemical reactions produced when lactose is not broken down efficiently. Also, look for an anti-diarrheal treatment which generally contains the same active ingredients as some of the gas and cramping medication. This will calm down the intestinal inflammation and allow you to pass the offending material easier.
– Build up natural bacteria in your intestines
This is a good practice even for people without Lactose Intolerance. By eating foods which contain active healthy flora or bacteria, you will find it much easier to digest and pass solids without any problems. You will notice your stomach will also feel less bloated and distended upon eating. Foods with psyllium fibres, and yogurt with active bacterial agents promote health bacterial growth which will make digestion easier on those days where you can’t avoid eating foods with lactose. You will build up a minor amount of lactase enzymes, and the active bacteria will be strong enough to break down a majority of the offending material. This active culture will increase the speed that toxic material is passed through your body and energize your gastro-intestinal system.
– Pay more attention to the foods you eat
Many people blindly eat what they feel is best for them without understanding the consequences. If you suffer from Lactose Intolerance, you need to be more alert and understanding of the products that can agitate the problem. Being knowledgeable about the foods you put into your system is a big step in maintaining your intestinal health for the future.
These tips should assist those looking for ways to alleviate the symptoms brought about by Lactose Intolerance. By reading and recognizing your ingredients prior to consumption, modifying and altering your diet to correspond to your ailment, and coming to terms with the need to change your lifestyle you can eventually live a normal life. These basic tips will almost negate any ill side effects you may encounter in the future.