There are so many dishes that naturally include dairy that bring back memories of fun times with family and friends. A few delicious options that come to mind for me are ice cream cake, cottage cheese parfaits, lasagna, pizza, quesadillas, smoothies, and frozen yogurt pops! Do you remember enjoying dairy as a kid before all the digestive distress? Not being able to tolerate dairy can be a huge barrier to enjoying your dining experience. You may feel isolated in social situations, feel embarrassed when asking for your specific dietary needs at restaurants, or even feel anxious to not know where the closest restroom is. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s time to let go of the fear around dairy and enjoy all the delicious options dairy has to offer! Whether your ability to digest lactose has diminished over time or you’ve always had lactose intolerance, there are plenty of ways to enjoy dairy without the digestive distress! Continue reading to find out how to include dairy into your diet without the dreaded tummy troubles.
Why can’t I tolerate dairy anymore?
You may be wondering why you can’t tolerate dairy when you remember being able to enjoy it regularly as a kid. One reason you may not be able to tolerate dairy may be due to your body’s inability to produce enough lactase, which is the enzyme necessary for lactose digestion. This is known as adult onset hypolactasia. When people with lactose intolerance consume dairy products, the milk sugars, or lactose, cannot be properly digested and enters the colon undigested. The colonic bacteria then ferments the lactose and causes gas which can lead to digestive distress. If this sounds like what you’ve been experiencing, you’re not alone! More than 65% of the world’s population has lactose malabsorption. But that doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid dairy!
Assess your personal tolerance
While you may be able to tolerate some dairy products in varying amounts, each person’s tolerance levels will vary. Some people will be able to tolerate eating small quantities of dairy while others may have more sensitivity to total lactose load in their diet. If you are unsure of your personal tolerance levels, this may be a great time to work with a dietitian who specializes in digestive health. A registered dietitian can work with you on identifying your personal tolerance with dairy so you can continue to enjoy dairy without digestive distress.
Choose low lactose dairy options
People who experience lactose intolerance can still enjoy real dairy products! There are plenty of dairy products that are naturally lower in lactose. Keep an eye out for hard, aged cheese such as Swiss, parmesan, and cheddar. In addition to hard cheese, some people who are sensitive to lactose but not intolerant can enjoy fermented dairy products like kefir and yogurt without distress. Greek yogurt naturally contains less lactose than conventional yogurt due to the straining process which makes it more tolerable. Also, the probiotics present in fermented foods can act as a source of lactase which can aid in the digestive process. And don’t forget about butter! Butter is naturally low in lactose and a little butter goes a long way in making a variety of dishes taste delicious.
Include lactose-free dairy
Dairy products are not only delicious but provide a high-quality source of calcium, potassium, protein, and vitamin B and D. Avoiding dairy and not replacing them with nutritionally equivalent alternatives can increase your risk of bone fracture, osteoporosis, and nutrient deficiencies. If you love dairy and don’t want to miss out on your favorite foods you can always include lactose-free dairy into your diet! Thankfully Green Valley Creamery makes a variety of delicious real dairy lactose-free foods that you can enjoy without the digestive distress, including yogurt, kefir, cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese and butter.
Be a detective!
There’s no need to be embarrassed about your needs while dining out. These days restaurants and servers are more aware of specific dietary needs. Doing a little planning before dining out can help make the dining experience a little more fun. Look up the menu or call ahead of time to inquire about ingredients used to make the dish you’d like to order and ask what options are lactose-free. If you know what types of dairy products you can tolerate, your options become more abundant. Be a detective and look for dishes that are made with dairy that you can tolerate.
Not being able to tolerate lactose no longer needs to be an issue! Now that you know how to enjoy dairy without the digestive distress you can expand your diet and enjoy delicious dairy-filled treats just like you used to.
Szilagyi A, Ishayek N. Lactose Intolerance, Dairy Avoidance, and Treatment Options. Nutrients. 2018; 10(12):1994. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10121994
Storhaug CL, Fosse SK, Fadnes LT. Country, regional, and global estimates for lactose malabsorption in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017;2(10):738-746. doi:10.1016/S2468-1253(17)30154-1
Leis R, de Castro M-J, de Lamas C, Picáns R, Couce ML. Effects of Prebiotic and Probiotic Supplementation on Lactase Deficiency and Lactose Intolerance: A Systematic Review of Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2020; 12(5):1487. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu1205...
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Samina Qureshi is the Registered Dietitian (RD, LD) and owner of Wholesome Start, a virtual nutrition coaching practice that helps people heal their digestive distress and relationship with food. Samina empowers her clients to nourish their bodies and feel their best without rigid diets, stress, guilt, or shame. She believes that nutrition is not a one-size-fits all approach and that all foods fit into a healthy diet.
Visit www.wholesomestart.com to learn more about how Samina can help you feel your best!