Remember when you were young and offered your date an ice cream cone and she turned it down with a grimace, and you thought it was because she hated you so you went home and lay in the fetal position and whimpered and never called her again? It’s quite possible that her refusal of ice cream was due to lactose intolerance, which, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, “is the inability or insufficient ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products,” and not a deep-seeded hatred of you. In fact, she may have simply been trying to avoid the bloating, cramps, gas, diarrhea and other noises that sometimes those who are lactose-intolerant experience when eating dairy products.
The next time this happens, avoid the self-pity and share these tips for a healthy lactose-free diet instead.
Dietary changes. The best way to combat lactose intolerance is by changing your diet. Most suffering from lactose intolerance can consume small amounts of milk or milk products without adverse results. A gradual introduction of small amounts of lactose, especially with meals, can alleviate the symptoms. Here are more health tips for those combating lactose intolerance:
- Get enough calcium. Because dairy products are an important source of calcium, it is important for those who do not consume dairy to get their calcium from other sources. Those foods include spinach, salmon, soy milk, pinto beans and more.
- Choose milk products with lower levels of lactose. Those who experience less severe symptoms can still consume yogurt, cottage cheese and hard cheeses to meet their calcium needs.
- Consume enough vitamin D. Calcium can only be absorbed when taken in conjunction with vitamin D. Eggs, liver and ample sunlight are good sources of vitamin D.
- Consume dairy alternatives such as rice or soy milk. Other milk alternatives include almond, oat and hemp milk.
Other concerns. Just because it isn’t a milk product doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain lactose. It behooves the lactose intolerant sufferer to read labels. If any of the following food items appear on the label, you can be sure it contains lactose: milk, lactose, whey, curds, milk by-products, dry milk solids and non-fat dry milk powder. Some medications also contain lactose as do, ironically, some over-the-counter medications used to treat stomach acid and gas.
Remember that just because you are lactose intolerance doesn’t mean you can’t consume dairy. The severity of the condition varies with individuals.