We have a guest contributor today, as Lisa who is lactose intolerant gives us her low down on living dairy free, with her thoughts on lactose intolerance and tips for living a life without dairy. Thanks Lisa for taking the time to share your tips and tricks for living without dairy…
I have always loved cheese, yogurt, and milk, you name it I have always consumed it, a glass of milk each night at dinner while growing up was sure thing. Yogurt for lunch and if it doesn’t have cheese I will add it for the 50 pence extra. I love cheese! More accurately I should say I loved cheese as we recently broke up. In fact, I have ended my relationship with all dairy products since I found out I was lactose intolerant this past September and am now living dairy free.
Giving up cheese and dairy products wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I don’t miss it and wouldn’t change my new diet for the world! I do a lot more home cooking rather then eating out. I have since invested in some new cookware and find that I actually really love cooking and I am good at it! There are fewer surprises this way as you never know what is in your meal when you eat out. Not to mention I save money and feel great!
Disovering I was lactose intolerant
Let me tell you my story of how I discovered I was lactose intolerant and the things I do now that have made me a much happier and healthier feeling person. My Dad is self diagnosed lactose intolerant so it occurred to me last summer when all of a sudden I was bloated and gassy all the time that perhaps I might be too. I can remember one day in particular when I had a glass of milk, which I hadn’t done since my mother used to make me drink milk with dinner. It was clear to me after that glass of milk that there was a problem.
I started paying attention to what I was eating and how my body reacted. I even visited my doctor because after a few weeks of cutting out cheese, milk and yogurt I still felt the same symptoms. My doctor suggested that I take a lactose test so I did. This test was long and painful!! You cannot eat the night before, you have to drink this nasty powder drink and then get your blood taken about 5 times over about a 4 hour period. I was unfortunate enough to only have one vein that wanted to give blood that day it was stabbed 5 times, poor vein, poor me, it hurt! Looking back, I am glad I did it and I would recommend taking the test versus ever assuming or self diagnosing.
The results of the lactose intolerant test came back negative, so my doctor referred me to a gastroenterologist. At this point I was pretty worried, but determined to find out what was the matter. Upon my visit I was explaining to the doctor my symptoms and mentioned that my lactose test showed that I was not lactose intolerant when he stopped me and said, “Wait, did you just say you weren’t? The test came back positive, you are definitely lactose intolerant.” WHAT!! My doctor or the nurse read the test results wrong, so for two weeks I was stressed out about what else could be wrong with me for no reason. You better believe I have found myself a new primary care physician since then.
What is lactose intolerance?
Defined by Wikipedia Lactose Intolerance is the inability to metabolize lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products, because the required enzyme lactase is absent in the intestinal system or its availability is lowered. It is estimated that 75% of adults worldwide show some decrease in lactase activity during adulthood. This, in turn, may cause a range of abdominal symptoms, including stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea and flatulence.
The nice gastroenterologists referred me to a nutritionist whom could help me manage my diet. The nutritionist discussed the importance of reading all ingredients before purchasing as well as suggested some key ingredients that wouldn’t necessarily strike you as lactose. Keywords to look out for in the ingredients label are milk, milk solids, lactose, lactoserum, whey, and casein. Obviously any yogurt, butter, and cream as well. This explained while when I was trying to self diagnose buy taking two weeks off the products with dairy, I was still most likely consuming lot’s of lactose without realizing.
She also provided me with a list of dairy products which then showed how much lactose each contained, for example, milk will obviously contain more lactose then cheese or yogurt. Certain cheeses, like swiss or aged cheeses contain far less lactose then younger cheeses because of the fermentation process they go through. The same with Yogurt, these processes actually take a lot of the whey and lactose out of the products therefore the result is a lower lactose percentage. She advised me to pay careful attention to my diet and keep a food diary of what I eat and monitor the way I feel. She said that some people based on their severity of Lactose Intolerance can handle small amounts of lactose. I have opted to stay away from all dairy. My philosophy is that if my body can’t break down the sugars then why subject it to that sort of pressure. She also educated me on the “lactose free” milk products. For example lactose free or low lactose milk has had the lactose removed, but these types of products still contain a certain amount of lactose, whether it is 10% or just trace amounts. I have chosen to stay away from them as well. I have found that these choices have actually changed my whole philosophy on eating and also dramatically changed the way I feel.
I have introduced both soy milk and rice milk into my diet to supplement the cow’s milk as I love cereal and I love yogurt. So I eat soy yogurt and drink soy lattes and I have rice milk in my cereal and in any cooking I do where milk is required. Other lactose free alternatives are almond milk, hazelnut milk, and Oatly milk. I have otherwise cut out any cheese from my diet, however if you can’t do with out cheese there are cheese alternatives and since some aged cheeses only contain trace amount of lactose some people can handle them. When shopping for cheese, look at the nutrition facts panel on the labels. If the amount of sugars listed is 0 grams, it does not contain lactose. I still tend to find that most cheeses don’t do my body good, so I stay away. The alternatives such as soy cheese are a good option but I don’t find myself really buying these products. I also try to monitor the amount of soy I am consuming, as too much of one thing is never a good thing. If I am having a sandwich, I might hold the cheese but add some fresh avocado. Yum!
The important thing when living dairy free is to make sure that you are getting enough calcium in your diet: Bone Health and Dairy Free. Calcium is so important for both men and women, but especially women. There are vitamin supplements you can take. You should also buy the rice and soymilk that is fortified with calcium. I also tend to eat a lot of vegetables that are known to provide calcium such as spinach, kale, broccoli, white and black beans, tofu, soy beans, oranges, and cabbage. Collard greens as well as salmon and oysters are also known to be a good source of calcium.
So my current diet involves tons of fresh fruit and veggies, and no processed foods. I try to combine a number of different high calcium foods in my diet each day and I have made so many new and exciting recipes that I might otherwise have never discovered! I made a great sesame chicken a few weeks back. Sesame seeds are known to be high in calcium as well. Served with some broccoli and whole grain rice you have yourself a delicious lactose free meal which would provide about one quarter of your daily recommended calcium intake. This week fish tacos was on the menu, corn tortilla’s each contain 50 mg of calcium. If you don’t eat fish substitute the fish for tofu.
When living dairy free don’t let your food intolerance get you down. Instead embrace it. Learn everything there is to know about it and then find other wonderful foods that you and your body love. Trust me, there is so much more to the food world then dairy products!