If you’re intolerant to lactose, the sugar naturally found in cow’s milk, you’re probably aware of the not-so-pretty side effects of devouring spoonfuls of Messina ice cream or eating your entire body weight in Brie (hey, no judgement here). So no one would blame you for wanting to avoid the foods that set off your symptoms. But don’t rush to give up the fromage just yet. Turns out, most lactose-intolerant people can comfortably handle dairy in moderation. “A diagnosis of lactose intolerance doesn’t mean you need to give up on dairy foods forever,” explains Blake Robinson, Nutritionist and Dietitian at Dairy Australia.
Blake says there are three key things to remember when it comes to lactose intolerance. First up, it’s about understanding that everyone has a different lactose threshold. “So while some might be able to tolerate up to a glass of milk at a time, others may have more success with two smaller serves spread across the day,” says Blake.
So how exactly can lactose-intolerant people enjoy dairy foods, you wonder?
Well, dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose, depending on processing methods. In fact, many dairy foods do not contain large amounts of lactose, if at all. Yoghurt with live active cultures, for example, is lower in lactose and is generally easily digested thanks to its probiotic bacteria, which help to break down lactose, and most cheeses are very low in lactose, especially harder varieties like cheddar, which contain virtually zero (and all along I’d been thinking the total opposite!). “Some dairy products naturally contain less lactose than milk, are very low in lactose or are in fact lactose free. Most hard cheeses, for example, are virtually lactose-free so cheddar, parmesan and Swiss varieties are very unlikely to cause any symptoms. Similarly, the friendly bacteria in natural yoghurt helps to digest the lactose – so the longer it’s in your fridge, the lower it becomes,” says Blake.
Still not convinced?
Why not try low-lactose and lactose-free milks and yoghurts, which offer the same nutrients (including calcium, potassium, protein, magnesium, vitamin A and B12), minus the bloat inducing lactose – I for one love lactose-free milk in my teas and am always buying a few cartons of Liddells Lactose Free Milk for my fridge.
Before you go diving into that cheese platter, make sure you listen to your body to find out exactly how sensitive you are, because understanding your own personal lactose threshold is so important. Some people may be able to tolerate some haloumi in a salad or milk in their smoothie, while others may prefer to enjoy two smaller amounts across the day. With this being said, self-diagnosis is not the answer! Before you decide to cut out any food groups from your diet it would be best to speak to your doctor or a health professional about any symptoms to avoid missing out on any vital nutrients or health benefits. If you experience adverse responses to dairy, like bloating or an upset stomach, be sure to see a medical professional.
But guys…at the end of the day, it’s all about moderation and choosing whole, real foods which means… (drum roll)… you can have the best of both worlds – indulgence and health.
Welcome to my life 🙂