If you're lactose intolerant, I already know what you're thinking: "Dairy? I can't eat that!" But it's true, with a little help you can. First, it's important to know that lactose intolerance is not a food allergy. It's a food sensitivity in which individuals don't have enough lactase, the enzyme that breaks down milk sugar, called lactose.
And just because you experience tummy troubles or feel bloated whenever you eat milk products doesn't immediately mean you have lactose intolerance. These common symptoms could be caused by something else, so it's important to get an official diagnosis from your doc.
If you've been completely cutting out dairy without speaking to a health care professional, you may be doing your body more harm than good, especially if you aren't incorporating a variety of other foods to replace nutrient-rich dairy. Dairy foods are packed with calcium and vitamin D, two nutrients essential for health and associated with reduced risk for diabetes and high blood pressure.
For those who deal with lactose intolerance on a daily basis, and do want to consume more dairy, I have some real-life solutions that just might work for you!
Start with just a small amount (as little as two ounces) of milk every day and increase the amount every few weeks as tolerated. It takes the gut about three weeks to adapt.
Savor It with Solids
Mixing and blending milk with other foods helps slow digestion so your body has more time to digest the lactose. Try adding a splash of milk with whole-grain cereal or add a few ounces to your favorite fruit smoothie.
Natural cheeses are very low in lactose but full of flavor and nutrition. Choose varieties such as cheddar, Swiss and mozzarella and add them to a meal or snack.
Go for the Yogurt
The live and active cultures in yogurt help your body more easily digest lactose.
Look for Lactose-Free Dairy Products
Lactose-free products are still real milk products, but with little to no lactose in them. Use these products as equal substitutes for regular dairy products. Or, consume dairy products that are naturally low in lactose, such as cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, mozzarella cheese, sharp cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese or queso blanco.