Overcoming Lactose Intolerance: Beware of the Hidden Milk



Millions of people are lactose intolerant. They are unable to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk. If you are one of them, you do not have enough enzymes called lactase, which breaks down lactose so it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance are nausea, cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance is actually very easy to treat…avoid foods like milk that contain lactose.


If you are lactose intolerant but just love moo juice, try lactase enzymes. They are available without a prescription. One type is a liquid that you put in your milk container and wait 24 hours. This reduces the amount of lactose in your milk so you can digest it more easily. Another type is a chewable tablet that you take just before meals or snacks. You can also find many forms of lactose-reduced products in your supermarket.


However, even if you are very careful about foods without milk, this natural sugar can just crop up in some unlikely places. If you are lactose intolerant, you have to be very alert.


For example, whey, the watery liquid that’s left when milk becomes cheese, is in processed foods like crackers. And it contains lactose, so does dry, or powdered, milk. Perhaps most alarming is that about 20 percent of all prescription drugs and 6 percent of all over-the-counter products contain lactose.


Make sure you to read all food and drug labels very carefully before eating a particular food, and ask your pharmacist about any medication you are not sure of.


But even careful attention to labels cannot entirely protect you. According to FDA Consumer magazine, current labeling guidelines leave some loopholes. Manufacturers can use the term “non-dairy” even when the product contains milk by-products. And there are more than a dozen ways to include milk protein in the list of ingredients without actually using the word “milk.”


If you are particularly intolerant, it may be a good idea to limit your processed foods, and avoid anything with unfamiliar ingredients.


All in all there’s a vast variety of options to live with lactose intolerance. Do not let it stop you from enjoying food, however. Try making some substitutions in your recipes. For example, if something calls for dry milk, try using the same amount of water instead. Experiment with different ingredients. You may find some interesting – not to mention tasty – solutions.