If you have lactose intolerance, then finding the right foods to eat can be a daily struggle. You have to be constantly thinking about what each food you eat contains and how it could affect your health. Here is a handy guide to help those with lactose intolerance find a diet that works for them. Read on to find out more about how lactose intolerance affects your body and tips for finding great lactose-free foods.
What Is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is, in its simplest terms, the inability to digest lactose properly. People may experience varying degrees of this condition depending on how well their bodies digest lactose in their diet. On a more detailed level, the reason that certain people have trouble with lactose digestion is because they have a deficiency of the enzyme, lactase. Lactase is produced by the cells in the lining of your small intestine and helps to break down lactose into its simplest forms so that it can be absorbed by the bloodstream. However, when not enough of this enzyme is produced, the body has trouble breaking down and digesting the lactose consumed. This leads to the common symptoms associated with lactose intolerance, such as abdominal pain, bloating and gas, diarrhea and nausea.
There are several ways that a person can develop lactose intolerance. The first is a natural reaction that occurs in children around the age of 2 when their body begins to produce less lactase. These individuals typically do not experience the symptoms of lactose intolerance until adolescence or adulthood. A lactase deficiency can also occur as a result of a specific condition, such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, or due to an injury to the small intestine. Finally, many researchers believe there may be a genetic link that causes certain individuals to develop lactose intolerance.
Foods To Avoid
Although certain people with lactose intolerance may be able to eat limited amounts of lactose-containing products, most people with this condition should avoid the following foods due to their lactose content:
- Dairy milks
- Cheese, especially soft, processed cheeses
- Margarines with butter or milk
- Cream, including sour cream and cream cheese
- Ice cream
- Fruit smoothies made with yogurt
- Creamed vegetables
- Instant mixes which call for milk (potatoes, pancakes, etc.)
- Breads, muffins, pancakes, waffles, rolls or bagels made with milk
- Batter-dipped items, like meat or fish
- Pizza, tacos, burritos or other items containing cheese
- Meats in cream sauces
- Omelets made with milk
- Processed meats containing milk, like hot dogs or deli meats
- Cream soups and chowders
- Gravies and white Sauces
- Whipped cream
- Desserts made with milk, such as cakes, pies and cookies
- Cream- or cheese-filled pastries
- Pudding and custard
- Toffee, butterscotch and caramels
When you have lactose intolerance, your choices of food may seem somewhat limited. Fortunately, there are still plenty of food options available to you, including all of these lactose-free products:
- Non-dairy milk substitutes, like rice milk and soy milk
- Non-dairy creamers
- Breads made without milk, like Italian and French breads
- Pasta, rice and noodles
- Rice cakes
- Saltines and whole-grain crackers
- Margarine made without butter or milk
- Oils and shortenings
- Salad with no cheese and a lactose-free dressing
- Fresh, cooked or baked fruits and vegetables
- Fruit and vegetable juices
- Freshly cooked meats, fish and poultry
- Eggs cooked without milk
- Nuts, seeds and peanut butter
- Soy cheeses
- Soy and tofu products
- Water-based gravies
- Herbs and spices
- Water-based soups
- Dairy-free frozen desserts
- Frozen fruit bars
- Sweeteners like sugar, honey and molasses
- Jellies, jams and preserves
- Pastries and pies made without milk
Tips For Finding Lactose-Free Foods
- Look for milk products which are labeled “lactose-free” or “lactose-reduced,” which can be found in most supermarkets. These items are the same as regular dairy products except they have the enzyme lactase added to aid in digestion.
- Check out a local health food store for a wider selection of lactose-free, soy and tofu products from which to choose.
- Search online for lactose-free foods – many websites offer a wide selection of items made without lactose that you can order by mail.
- Choose soy milk products as an alternative to dairy-based milk products.
- Ask your doctor if you should take over-the-counter lactase enzyme drops or tablets to help with the digestion of milk or milk products.