Testing and diagnosis: Lactose intolerance vs Other Food Intolerance
It can be hard to figure out what the right lactose intolerance diet for you might be. You want to get rid of all the uncool lactose intolerance symptoms like abdominal swelling and stomach bloating as well as belly pain, heartburn, cramping, and gas.
Some people can cut back on lactose-rich foods, others can cheat, others can take OTC lactase supplements to improve milk sugar digestion, and others really want a dairy-free diet to guarantee the pain-free good times.
The first step that I would recommend is to visit your doctor and discuss your options. Most people will want to get an easy lab test done called a “hydrogen breath test” where you drink a water and dairy sugar mix and then puff into a little medical bag a few times over an hour or two. With that your doctor can determine if you are lactose intolerant.
One warning is that some people will have more than one dairy intolerance or food intolerance. You might be lactose intolerant but also casein intolerant, which means you can’t digest one of the major dairy proteins. If you also have a milk protein intolerance as well as lactose intolerance symptoms, you may need a dairy-free diet for life.
Lactose-free Foods Diet
The good news with lactose intolerance is that there are so many tens of millions of sufferers around the globe that there are tons of lactose-free foods available. You can get everything from milk, cheese, yogurt, to cottage cheese and ice cream in a lactose free form that is still made with dairy.
Another option is to look for lactose-free foods that are not made from dairy. These dairy free meals and desserts typically taste much better than what was available last year. There are hundreds of good soy yogurt and ice cream products available in most supermarkets, for example.
One other factor is the amount of lactose sugar that is in the dairy product. While milk, yogurt, and ice cream are loaded with dairy sugars, hard cheese and cream cheese, for example, is usually quite low in lactose. If you are just sensitive and not completely intolerant, you may be able to limit some dairy and choose other smarter choices for you. You can also mix and match, taking regular hard cheese, but lactose free milk, and soy yogurt. See how your body reacts and if you are still having dairy intolerance symptoms.
Lactase Enzyme Supplement
How much Lactaid should I take to prevent lactose intolerance symptoms
Part of eliminating lactose intolerance symptoms like gas and bloating is trial and error with your lactase enzyme pill supplements. You can start by taking one or two before a meal containing dairy and see if it prevents uncomfortable symptoms like pain and cramping completely or not. Adjust your dose if needed, and repeat if necessary until you find that you feel normal and comfortable after your dairy-rich meal. The good news about lactase enzyme is that it is a natural enzyme that is normally produced in the human gut. There are no known side-effects from taking this OTC medication, nor can you overdose from taking too much. That being said, try to find out what dose is effective for you and stick to that.
The gold standard for most people with this type of dairy intolerance is to simply take an over the counter lactase enzyme supplement before eating any dairy products. While Lactaid is a common and trusted brand, your drug store may also have generic brand enzymes. Online vitamin shops like Vitacost and Amazon are a good place to check since they will usually have many different brands and formulations of lactase enzyme such as Nature’s Way, Kal, Vitacost, Solgar, and Solaray. Compare the strength of the pills and the count in the bottle before buying, though, since there is a huge range in how many milligrams of enzyme per pill each will have.
Multi-Spectrum Enzyme Support
Some people will want to skip the Lactaid and go for a digestive enzyme pill that contains the enzymes to help break down the lactose, as well some of the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and sometimes plant fibre. If you are sensitive to dairy and are concerned it is not just a lactose intolerance issue, this is a great option. It may also be an aid if you have a mild gluten intolerance, as well, depending upon the brand and formulation.
Ultimately, there is always the option of going completely dairy-free. This is not as drastic as it sounds, since you are really just doing less than strict vegetarian or vegan does every day, and you already know about some of the options such as soy products and vegan products that are available all over. Even if you live in a small town, you have the option of buying whatever you cannot find on the internet. You can do a quick web search on sites like Amazon, as well as dozens of smaller specialty and niche food sites to find one that carries all just what you are looking for and will ship it to your town and country. Shop around for the best price for shipping and handling since this can be pricey, though.
A dairy-free lifestyle will also give you the option to be more involved with what you eat and how it is prepared. You will often find yourself preparing dairy and gluten-free meals (depending upon what your food sensitivies are) as well as cooking more and more from scratch. You will find yourself reading every label looking for hidden lactose and dairy ingredients and derivatives and really beginning to understand what is in what you eat and making healthier and healthier choices over time. Usually you will find yourself with far fewer dairy intolerance symptoms, or not discomfort at all, if you are on a dedicated dairy free diet. You will also find yourself whipping up dairy-free deserts in no time with the thousands of dairy-free recipes on the web.