is a common ailment which occurs when the body is unable to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk/milk products. Presumably, it’s been around since man began eating diary products (it is said that Hippocrates identified it in people as far back as 450BC) – but it only became officially recognized in the mid 20th century. It is estimated that about 75% of the world population is lactose intolerant – many don’t even realise it. It is often misdiagnosed as acid reflux; IBS; or gastric ulcers. Those afflicted with it are all-too familiar with the symptoms, which can prevent you from really looking and feeling on top. (Who feels good with a bloated stomach in their Sunday best?!).
Lactose intolerance means there are a lack of lactase enzymes in the body – when ingested it can cause
- stomach pain
Left untreated it can potentially damage the digestive system – but is not fatal. Adults are more likely to suffer, as lactose intolerance usually (but not always) develops in later life. There really is no need to suffer from it – there are many lifestyle changes you can make, whilst still maintaining a high level of nutrition. Let’s take a look:
The easiest way to detect lactose intolerance is to take a hydrogen breath test at your local GP. It’s easy and effective – you drink a lactose-based drink and your breath is measured afterwards. Or, you could try the elimination diet for a week or so. Simply give up dairy products and make a careful note of how you feel. If you feel considerably better, you may be onto something. Food alternatives may be the answer for you.
Vitamins & Calcium
Not only do dairy products taste good (who doesn’t love a whopping serving of frozen yogurt?!), but they provide the body with fundamental amounts of Calcium and Vitamins (A, D, E, K). When removing dairy from the diet, it is essential to find foods with the same nutritional value.
All is not lost! Yogurt produced with live bacterial cultures can actually benefit those with lactose intolerance, despite its dairy milk foundation. This type of yogurt actually helps the intestine to convert lactose to lactic acid. (Note – do make sure the yogurt you eat contains live bacterial cultures!)
Alternative food sources
Soy is, of course, the number one dairy alternative. Equivalent to milk in its protein content, it also contains B Vitamins, Vitamin A, E, and Calcium (if Calcium-fortified). Soy milk contains more iron per serving than cow’s milk, which is another added bonus. Unlike dairy milk, it contains no cholesterol and is lower in saturated fats. Other great sources of calcium include:
- Blackstrap Molasses
- Salmon (with bones)
- Dark green leafy vegetables (Spinach, Collard Greens, Kale, Okra)
- Nuts (Almonds, Brazil Nuts)
- Orange Juice
Switching to soy products doesn’t necessarily guarantee weight-loss, however, consider this: One serving of whole cow’s milk has 149 calories, whilst the same serving of soy milk has 140 — fat-free soy milk has 100. And since dairy milk has more saturated fat than soy milk, it’s another great incentive to make the switch if weight-loss is your goal.
Being someone who gave up dairy, I can offer a bit of personal perspective. Having suffered for years with digestive issues which were constantly misdiagnosed, I finally decided to drop dairy and switch to soy milk. Nothing to lose, right? Not only did I lose 2lbs in the first two weeks without even trying, but all the ailments which had persisted for years vanished – literally overnight. I threw the antacids away and have not looked back since. My suggestion to anyone who thinks they may be lactose intolerant: Undertake the elimination diet for two weeks, eat your replacement foods and see how you feel. You will be amazed!
Last but not least, for the eco-conscious – another great reason to give up dairy. The energy and land needed to raise cows far exceeds the resources used to manufacture soy. Soy requires less water, less energy, and creates nowhere near the amount of greenhouse gases generated by dairy cows. So what are you waiting for?
If you have some success with this, I’d love to hear your stories. Please do feel free to comment below.
Thanks for reading!