Millions of people are affected by lactose intolerance. The symptoms that arise can be very uncomfortable and often hindering to everyday life.
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, which is a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products.
About 30 million American adults have some amount of lactose intolerance by age 20.
Symptoms often occur 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking milk products. Symptoms include abdominal bloating and cramping, diarrhea, gas and nausea.
Identifying goods with lactose
It often is difficult to find prepared foods that do not contain lactose in some variety. When grocery shopping, it is a good practice to read the ingredient labels.
If you notice ingredients that read - made with milk, milk ingredients, whey, cream, cheese, butter, etc. - you may want to avoid these products or consume them in moderation.
However, whey contains a high concentration of lactose; therefore, you may want to avoid whey entirely.
Items that may contain lactose and should be avoided include:
Milk and cream
Cheese and butter
White breads (loaves, rolls and specialty breads)
Crackers and cereals
Salad dressings, dips and spreads
Lunch meats and hot dogs
Egg substitutes and powdered eggs
Ice cream and sherbet
Pudding and custards
Cakes, cake mixes and pies
Caramel, toffee and butterscotch
Substitutes and solutions
Several lactose-free milk options are available. Generally they tend to be a bit more expensive and include items such as soy milk, rice-based milk or almond milk. However, all three are easy to digest and make a great alternative, especially for those who eat cereal.
For the cheese lovers out there, there are several brands of real cheese that are naturally lactose free and, best of all, still have a great cheese taste.
Cabot, for example, produces many cheeses that contain zero grams of lactose per serving, including cheddar, light cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack and muenster.
For chocolate lovers, dark chocolate is a healthy substitute to the common chocolates on the market.
Dark chocolate (in moderate consumption) has gained significant popularity due to its health and wellness benefits. Plus, it can help satisfy a chocolate craving and has very little to no lactose it in.
Lactase enzymes are available over-the-counter in different forms such as liquid drops, pills and chewable tablets. They provide additional enzymes to help the digestion of lactose.
The foods consumed and the severity of the lactose intolerance determine how well the medications work. For many, these somewhat affordable medications are a must-have item and allow those with minor to moderate lactose intolerance enjoy the foods they love.
Natural bacteria assist
Yogurt with active bacteria cultures will make digestion easier. The bacterial strain commonly used in yogurt can produce lactase enzymes. Therefore, people with lactose intolerance or intestinal infections usually can tolerate yogurt with active cultures.
By reading ingredients prior to consumption, altering your diet and accepting the need to change your lifestyle, you eventually can live a normal life and enjoy many of the same foods as those around you.
Simpson may be reached at Jersey Shore Medical Associates, 263-5688.