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How to Adjust to Living Lactose-Free

Has your doctor recommended you remove lactose from your diet? There could be many reasons why. Maybe you’re lactose intolerant or maybe a dairy sensitivity triggers or worsens a gastrointestinal condition that you have.

If you’re lactose intolerant, you’re not alone. It’s actually very common. 30 million American adults experience lactose intolerance. People who are lactose intolerant can’t fully digest lactose, the sugar in milk. The inability to digest lactose results in stomach issues after eating food or drinking beverages that contain lactose.

Lactose intolerance is usually harmless, but the symptoms can be uncomfortable, painful, and disruptive. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps, and gas and bloating. These symptoms usually begin 30 minutes to two hours after eating food that contains lactose.

Going lactose-free can seem daunting. You may have to build new habits as you move to a lactose-free lifestyle. Here are some tips that can help you through the transition.

At the Grocery Store

If you’re new to avoiding lactose, product labels can give you all the information you need to figure out if a product contains dairy. In 2004, the U.S. passed a labeling act that required packaged food with any of the eight major food allergens to list them on the label, and milk is one of them. This law doesn’t apply to packaged foods that may contain an allergen from food processing methods. Some foods that seem to be dairy-free may have trace amounts due to food processing.

If a food label includes whey, casein, and milk solids, the food is not dairy-free. Labels like dairy-free, milk-free, and vegan indicate that the food doesn’t contain dairy. Many dairy products, like cheese, butter, and yogurt, now have vegan versions. Some milk products are specially produced to be lactose-free, and their labels will indicate that. Any foods that are dairy- or lactose-free won’t irritate your stomach. You’ll still have plenty of options.

At the Coffee Shop

Non-dairy milks are more popular than ever. There are so many choices for those who are lactose intolerant that you’re sure to find one you like, whether you’re at the grocery store or the coffee shop. You can swap in soy milk, oat milk, almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, or macadamia milk — they all work in your cereal, latte, or recipe. These non-dairy milks are nutritious, lactose-free substitutes. Not ready to give up dairy milk? There are several brands of milk that offer lactose-free dairy milk such as Fairlife and Horizon.

At a Restaurant

When you’re lactose intolerant, it can be tricky to eat out. Milk and other dairy products are used in a variety of ways in restaurant kitchens, like in soups, sauces, and beverages. Cheese, butter, and cream can be included in many dishes in ways you wouldn’t think of. Tell your server that you’re avoiding dairy, and ask for recommendations of foods that are dairy-free.

How to Get Help Going Lactose-Free
Without proper management, lactose intolerance can impact your life. You don’t have to suffer from your symptoms without support. The gastroenterologists at GCSA can diagnose your lactose intolerance and work with you to develop a plan that will help you manage your symptoms. Our registered dietician can help you create a dietary plan that reduces or totally removes lactose from your diet while ensuring you get the nutrients you need. Schedule an appointment today.

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