Will I Outgrow Lactose Intolerance?
Guest Post from Julie Eckert
Lactose intolerance – I let out an internal groan every time I have to mention this at restaurants or at a friend’s house. It’s a phrase that doesn’t paint a pretty picture, but it has been my reality since I turned 21.
After 21 years of drinking milk, eating yogurt and ice cream, I was devastated to have to give up my morning cheerios. It came on fairly suddenly, I ate a bowl of cereal and my stomach started cramping etc. etc. Then I noticed the same thing was happening with yogurt, ice cream, and some cheeses.
After the discovery, someone told me that food allergies go through 7-year cycles, so at age 28, I anxiously and excitedly rushed out to buy milk hoping that I had outgrown the issue. I later learned that an intolerance is different than an allergy. (For more about this, click here). In a nut shell – as I have gotten older, my body has decreased the amount of lactase it produces – the enzyme that naturally digests lactose (milk sugar). Lactose sits undigested in my stomach and causes discomfort (among other things). Turns out, I am not likely to outgrow it.
Because my stomach is fairly sensitive I was always wary of trying new things, especially when not at home. To this day I still love and miss milk but for some reason I hesitated to regularly use other ‘milk products’. Soymilk, rice milk, almond milk all seemed overly processed and the word milk felt out of place as there wasn’t in fact milk in the products. Rather than use those, I opted to drink my coffee black, eat cereal dry and simply skip ice cream. In my reluctance to try new things, I lumped lactose free milk into the same category as all the other ‘milk products and just went without. What a mistake!
About a month ago, at the encouragement of my sister, who is a dietitian and dairy guru (she works with dairy farmers), I finally tried lactose free milk. It turns out…it’s just milk – real milk with a bit of lactase enzyme added so the lactose is digested before it hits my stomach. After my first bowl of cereal with milk in over a decade I waited and waited for the cramps (and what happens next) to come but they never did. Success! Lactose Free Milk tastes the same, looks the same, and has the same ingredients as regular milk. I cannot believe I didn’t try this sooner; I’ve been missing out on regular milk this whole time.
What can I eat?
So… after some trail and error, lots of reading, and the availability of new products on the shelves, here’s where I stand:
I can’t just sit down and drink a glass of milk BUT, I can drink lactose-free milk, and I just bought Fair Life, a new milk product that is lactose free, lower in sugar and higher in protein than traditional milk. I love it! My husband, who is not lactose intolerant, loves that it has more protein and guzzles a glass after a workout. It is now the only milk I buy – it’s more expensive but the ingredients and lack of lactose are worth every penny. I could go on and on…
I can eat my mom’s amazing home made Mac and Cheese IF I take a Lactaid pill (basically a pill that delivers the lactase enzyme to my body) and my mom uses cheese naturally low in lactose like sharp cheddar and aged Swiss. (some cheddars are actually lactose free)
Even though I should be able to eat yogurt – yogurt is naturally low in lactose since its’ benefical bacteria digest lactose – my body still has some issues.
Pizza, especially pizza topped with fresh Mozzarella cheese is tough for me, but a Lactaid pill absolutely helps here too.
Living lactose-free has been a lifestyle change, but I’ve learned that it is by no means the end of dairy consumption. Next on the list of things to try – lactose free yogurt & Ice cream!
- Visit our FAQs – Lactose Intolerance
- Lactose Intolerance or Milk Allergy?
- Recipes on our Pinterest board: Love it with Lactose Intolerance
How much do you know about Lactose Intolerance? Take the quiz to find out.