The Lactose Intolerance Diet

The lactose intolerance diet is designed to help sufferers avoid or reduce the uncomfortable symptoms associated with lactose intolerance while still getting the nutrition their bodies need.

The Premise

Being lactose intolerant means that your body cannot digest the lactose (milk sugar) molecules contained in dairy products. This occurs because your body lacks lactase—the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose molecules. In the absence of this enzyme, lactose molecules remain unprocessed in your digestive system and interact with your intestinal bacteria. If you are lactose intolerant, you may begin to experience symptoms like abdominal pain, gas, nausea, bloating or diarrhea shortly after eating dairy products.

The Diet

While there is currently no known way to make the body manufacture more lactase, adopting the lactose intolerance diet can help you to better manage your condition. The lactose intolerance diet requires you to refrain from eating products that contain lactose. Since dairy products are the primary lactose providers, this means eliminating foods such as: 

• Milk

• Margarine

• Ice cream

• Cream

You should also be on the lookout for less obvious lactose-containing foods such as:

• Salad dressings 

• Frosting 

• Bread

• Candy

What to Get Excited Over

If you love dairy products, following the lactose intolerance diet may seem more like a punishment than a plan. Before you begin lamenting the loss of your beloved dairy, however, keep in mind that you can still enjoy drinking milk substitutes like Lactaid. Lactaid is simply a milk product that does not contain lactose or that contains less lactose than regular milk. You can choose to drink regular Lactaid milk or you can try one of the flavored products like banana and strawberry. You can also try drinking soy or rice milk products. Depending on your body’s unique needs, you may not necessarily have to cut all dairy products out of your life while you are on the lactose intolerance diet. Your body may be able to handle small servings of dairy or other foods that contain tiny amounts of lactose on occasion. The key is finding the right balance that fits your unique digestive system.

Things to Consider

One important consideration while on the lactose intolerance diet is to make sure that you get enough calcium. While cutting calcium-rich dairy foods from your diet may make this difficult to do, calcium is necessary for maintaining bone strength and to prevent bone loss. The lactose intolerance diet plan mandates that you supplement your calcium intake by adding other non-dairy calcium-containing foods to your diet. Calcium is present in foods like broccoli, oranges, spinach, salmon, almonds, pinto beans and tofu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults 18 years and older receive at least 1300 mg of calcium per day. It is also very important that you increase your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps your body absorb calcium. You can find vitamin D in foods like liver, eggs, mackerel and tuna fish.

The Verdict

If you suffer from lactose intolerance, the golden days of milk shakes and extra cheese toppings may well be at an end. However, while this may take some getting used to, following the lactose intolerance diet can help you to keep both your taste buds and your digestive system happy.

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