Many Americans suffer from lactose intolerance. Lactose is the milk sugar in milk and dairy products. Lactose intolerance occurs when your body does not have enough of the enzyme to digest, or breakdown, this milk sugar. If you’re lactose intolerant, you may experience painful stomach cramps, gas, or diarrhea when you eat or drink dairy products.
Should you remove lactose altogether?
Many people completely remove dairy products from their diet to avoid these symptoms. Dairy products, especially low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt, and cheeses are an important part of a balanced diet.
Unfortunately, this is a problem. Dairy products provide you with calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, and, protein – all of which are important and essential nutrients for bone health. They also reduce your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and improving weight management. Below are a few tips to help you enjoy your favorite dairy products.
1) Consume dairy with other foods.
When you eat or drink your milk or dairy products with other foods it helps to digest more slowly and decrease symptoms.
Your body can adapt and become more efficient at digesting lactose. Start with one bite or one small amount of milk or dairy with food (depending on how sensitive you are). Slowly, increase the amount and frequency you consume until you can tolerate an entire serving without symptoms.
3) Try foods that contain dairy before drinking milk.
Yogurt or cheeses are generally tolerated better than milk. They have other food components that improve your symptoms by slowing down digestion.
4) Try lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk and dairy products.
Many of these products contain lactase, the enzyme your body is missing, to digest the lactose.
If your lactose intolerance is more severe, you may benefit from lactase enzyme pills. First, meet with your doctor and registered dietitian to discuss the best way to incorporate dairy into your lifestyle.