Lactose intolerance or the inability to digest and metabolize lactose, which is the sugar found in milk, is a condition that can result in bloating, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain. It is estimated that, depending on what part of the world you live, there is better than a 50-50 chance you will develop the condition as you increase in age. The severity of symptoms will vary with the person involved and the amount of lactose consumed. If the condition for you or one of your family members becomes an issue, there are ways to control this within your diet rather than experiencing the discomfort.
When lactose avoidance is not possible or when a person just doesn’t want to give up those foods which contain lactose, a supplementation for the enzyme lactase may be used. Lactase is the enzyme produced in our digestive systems that breaks down lactose, and supplements taken in pill form can do the same job, but with some caveats. First, too much acid in the stomach can break it down, so taking it on an empty stomach may eliminate its effectiveness. Next, it becomes ineffective if not in the small intestine before the problematic food arrives. So for lactase supplements to work, you may have to experiment a bit to get the right timing and dosage to fit your particular needs.
Another option is one of the many meal delivery plans that are now available. It is possible to get a balanced diet while eliminating dairy products, and there are plans that provide three meals a day plus snacks, seven days a week. A plan such as this would provide 50-60% of your calories from carbohydrates, 20-25% of calories from protein and less than 30% of your calories from fat. These are in compliance with the recommendations of the American Heart Association.
As with any diet that eliminates a source of food that is beneficial to your health, and dairy products are an important source of calcium, you must make up for the loss with other foods. In lactose intolerant meal plan, non-dairy sources of calcium, such as almonds, broccoli, soy products, kidney beans, oats and seafood would have to make up the difference in calcium. A meal plan really takes the guesswork out of all that.
Another option requires a little more work, but with the help of the internet you will find many excellent recipes and ideas for lactose-free food options.
1. Baking. Although not as flavorful as butter, coconut oil and some dairy-free spreads (if devoid of lactose or whey) make acceptable substitutes. Soya or rice yoghurt could be substituted for yoghurt or milk in baking goods.
2. Frying. Butter gives a nice caramelized taste, but olive or vegetable oil can be used in frying and sauteing.
3. Custard and cream desserts. The alternative milk products can be used in the standard recipes, but might give the dessert a slightly different taste then milk. If that presents a problem, increase the amount of the flavoring you use, be it lemon, chocolate, etc.
There are ways to get around the lactose intolerance issues, as eating won’t be pleasurable having to put up with the discomfort.