Lactose Intolerance and Diet

It must be emphasised that there is no treatment for lactose intolerance. It is a condition that you have to learn to live with, and the best way to do this is to assess your diet and make the recommend adjustments. Any food containing lactose will cause you to have the unpleasant symptoms if you’re lactose intolerant. To prevent these symptoms from occurring you should try and eat only lactose-free foods - eliminating lactose from your diet. The problem here lies, that we get many of our essential nutrients through major food groups; in this case the majority of lactose containing foods are found in dairy products. Dairy products are one the essential food groups, especially for good growth and development in children. It is important you don’t lose out on any essential nutrients because of your lactose intolerance.

So, to live with lactose intolerance you should both; avoid lactose-containing foods and eat foods that will supplement the essential nutrients you won’t be receiving from dairy products.

Here is a list of the most well known lactose containing foods:

  • Milk
  • Ice cream
  • Cream
  • Butter yoghurt
  • Cheese – although the lactose content varies with different types. Soft cheeses tend to contain more lactose than hard cheese
  • Other dairy products

Milk is often added to processed foods and so there are a few other foods that also contain small amounts of lactose, such as:

  • Bread
  • Pancakes, waffles, biscuits and cookies and doughnuts
  • Processed breakfast cereals
  • Soups
  • Processed meats like hot dogs
  • Margarine
  • Protein powders and bars

If you’re unsure whether a certain food contains lactose, look at the packaging. Sometimes alternative words are used instead of lactose; making it difficult to follow a completely lactose-free diet. Words used in place of lactose include:

  • Milk
  • Whey
  • Milk by-products
  • Dry milk solids

Milk is a key lactose containing food that is the main source of calcium in the diet. Calcium is needed for a healthy lifestyle; to promote healthy and strong bone growth.

If drunk in small quantities milk can sometimes still remain part of your diet. It all depends on how severe your lactose intolerance is; how tolerant you are to lactose. Those with a very severe intolerance may only be able to drink a small cup of milk at a time without bringing on symptoms, whereas others may be able to tolerant more. If you try and drink the milk with a meal it may be easier to digest. Also, slowly increasing the amount of milk you drink may improve your tolerance to it; this is known as the elimination technique.

Increased awareness of lactose intolerance has seen the development of lactose-free milk, or the idea of adding lactase supplements to the milk before consumption. Many often replace cow’s milk with goat, soy or rice milk.

If your diet eliminated dairy products then other Calcium rich foods are the best way to attain you daily calcium needs. These include foods such as:

  • Green leafy vegetables -  spinach and broccoli
  • Nuts and seeds - almonds and sesame seeds
  • Fish -  salmon and sardines
  • Dried fruits -  apricots and dates
  • Calcium-enriched soya milks

You may find it helpful to make a list of all the foods you come across that make you feel unwell and trigger symptoms. That way you don’t need to remember all the different offending foods, and you can easily look them up on your list if you are ever unsure they are safe to eat in the future.

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