“The whole crew sat on the deck, without a storm or a monster attack to worry about for the first time in days, and ate ice cream. Well, except for Frank, who was lactose intolerant. He got an apple.”
― Rick Riordan, The Blood of Olympus
Now that is how lactose intolerance can make you feel. Dejected when you glance at dairy. Morose when you see milk. Cheerless when you see cheese.
In a college student’s life, it can be pretty disconcerting to not be able to eat foods that we all crave and love to eat, ranging from mac-n-cheese to ice-cream. The list of forbidden foods goes on and most of your favorite foods get blacklisted. Or struck off your list of foods to eat. Or invariably both.
So, here is a little something about the dos and don’ts regarding lactose intolerance, and you may want to read through, as this is going to be legen-wait for it…and I hope you are not lactose intolerant because the second half of that word is –DAIRY. (pun intended!)
1) What is lactose intolerance?
A simple chemical reaction is what goes haywire.
Lactose–> Glucose + Galactose
Lactose is a sugar present in milk and milk products, and an enzyme called Lactase is needed for this reaction to take place successfully, and break down lactose. When this enzyme does not work properly or is not produced, then the individual is known as lactose intolerant. On consuming dairy products, lactose does not get broken down leading to various symptoms. This means all dairy products are a strict no-no. And thus ice creams, pastries, milkshakes, cheese burst pizzas, buttery popcorn, and literally anything else off the top of your head which may contain milk products, are bade a tearful goodbye.
2) What happens when a lactose intolerant person consumes lactose?
If you are lactose intolerant and you end up downing that large, creamy sundae, you may be in for trouble. Abdominal cramps, stomach pain, bloating, nausea and flatulence are some of the symptoms you may experience depending on the degree of intolerance. However, not everybody who has difficulty digesting lactose will suffer the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
3) What are the chances of you being lactose intolerant?
This condition is more common than we think it is, as many of us end up losing our ability to digest lactose as we move into adulthood. It develops after a complex interplay of various genetic and nutritional factors, and the highest prevalence is found in South America, Africa and Asia with almost 50% of the population being affected.
4) How do you know if you are lactose intolerant?
If you experience any of the above mentioned symptoms on consuming dairy products, then you may be lactose intolerant. But you should be careful not to misdiagnose yourself. So get yourself checked, and some simple diagnostic tests performed in the hospital should give you the right answer.
So after getting the lowdown on this not so uncommon condition, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritties: tackling this disorder, staying healthy and at the same time trying not to deprive your taste buds of the flavour you know they deserve!
1) Know your symptoms
How much dairy you can eat depends on how much lactase your body makes, which varies from person to person. Some people may be able to induce lactase production by eating dairy products. Also you may be able to tolerate dairy products in small amounts, depending on your tolerance to lactose.
2) Keep a food diary
Better than keeping a mental note of the foods you eat, would be to jot down the foods which cause you discomfort, so that you can steer clear from them the next time.
3) Keep your eyes peeled while grocery shopping
This is because lactose is also present in foods such as breakfast cereals, pancake mixes, custard powder etc. Make sure you read product labels carefully and weed out items containing the following: milk, lactose, curd, dry milk solids, and whey. In fact, even certain medicines may contain lactose. Consult your doctor to avoid them.
4) Try lactase supplements
There are various formulations available which serve as lactase supplements. Over the counter lactase enzyme drops added to milk, reduce lactose levels up to 90 percent, and the milk can be safely consumed 24 hours later. However, the results may vary among people and with different products.
5) Do not break a leg
No, I’m not trying to wish you bad luck before your musical/theatre performance, but in fact reminding you of your daily requirement for calcium. Lactose intolerant individuals who cut out dairy foods completely from their diet and end with a much higher risk of osteoporosis as well as vitamin D deficiency, which lead to brittle bones and fractures. So try to supplement your diet with foods such as soy milk, cottage cheese, eggs, salmon and tofu to get that added nutrition.
6) Revamp your diet
When it’s time for a diet makeover, select foods that make you feel like you never had a problem in the first place! Soy milk, rice milk, almond milk are some of the milk substitutes that can be used. Say no to ice cream, and yes to sorbets and dairy free yoghurts. Gelato may be a possible option if your lactose intolerance is mild. Nowadays, cheese made from rice and soy and even dairy free butter and margarine is available. The choices are endless and so are the possibilities.
So folks, do not despair if you are lactose intolerant. There are a plethora of options available to tickle your taste buds and yet keep you healthy. All takes is a tiny bit of effort. Embrace your dairy free options and do not cry over spilt milk!