Lactose is a form of sugar, which is commonly found in milk and milk products. While consumption of milk and digestion of lactose is a normal process, in few people, it may be disturbed. Some people are not able to digest this form of sugar (lactose) and hence intake of milk and milk products can cause certain health problems in them. They are said to have lactose intolerance.
Why Is A Lactose-Free Diet Advised?
A lactose-free diet can be advised in cases of milk allergies or in case when someone is not able to tolerate milk as in lactose intolerance, which is different from milk allergy.
Food Allergies – Milk allergy often occurs in early years of life and even small amounts of milk taken can cause allergic reaction.
Lactose Intolerance – For normal digestion of lactose present in milk and dairy products, the gut releases an enzyme called lactase. This enzyme, lactase enables the breakdown of lactose into simpler forms of sugar, which can be absorbed in the blood. However, some people can have lactose intolerance either due to lactase enzyme deficiency or due to ineffective absorption of lactose in the gut.
Lactose intolerance usually causes bloating, feeling of fullness in abdomen, gas, abdominal pain or discomfort, nausea and even diarrhea on consumption of milk and milk products. The degree of discomfort and the amount of lactose they can tolerate may vary. This is usually seen during adolescence and adulthood.
What Is A Lactose-Free Diet?
Lactose-free diet requires a person to eliminate all milk and milk products from the diet as that is the only way to prevent undesirable symptoms arising from consumption of lactose. Few people may be advised low lactose diet if their lactose intolerance is less severe.
The most important part of lactose-free diet is choosing the alternatives that can be allowed for consumption. As milk and dairy products are rich in calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients, eliminating them from the diet can cause nutritional deficiencies. Foods allowed in the diet should be able to compensate for the nutritional requirement or additional supplementation should be considered with medical advice.
Foods To Avoid in Lactose Free-Diet
A lactose-free diet suggests avoiding milk in all forms like condensed milk, milk powder, solids, malted milk, whey or whey solids and milk products like cheese, cheese spread, cottage cheese, butter and yogurt.
Avoid all preparations which are made using milk or butter like cookies, creams, cakes, ice-creams, cream sauces, puddings, fruit smoothies with milk or yogurt, desserts, soups and gravies with milk or cream, salad dressings, packaged and processed foods like hot dogs, sausages, contain milk.
Some may be able to tolerate yogurt or buttermilk while some may not, so it has to be avoided accordingly. In case you may be consuming something that contains lactose, it is important to be watchful and report any change to your physician.
Foods Allowed In Lactose-Free Diet
With any elimination in the diet, it is essential to find healthy alternatives that the person can enjoy and be able to follow the prescribed diet. It is good to consult a nutritional expert and design a personalized lactose-free meal plan based on individual requirements.
- Replace milk and dairy with alternatives like lactose-free milk, soy milk and rice milk.
- Replace butter with margarine that does not contain milk or butter, oils and non-dairy creamers. Soy cheese and tofu can be taken.
- All fresh fruits and vegetables, raw or cooked without milk or butter are allowed. All fruit and vegetable juices prepared with water or alternative milk can be taken.
- Use seasoning like herbs and spices, gravies and soups cooked with water.
- Beans, legumes and peas dried or cooked without milk can be consumed.
- All cooked grains, breads and cereals can be included. Preparations should not use milk, butter, cheese or any milk products.
- Eggs, fish and poultry can be included in boiled, grilled or cooked form without using milk and milk products.
- Desserts that do not contain milk for example, fruits bars, honey, syrups, fruit ices and sorbets, gelatin desserts like jellies can be included.
- In case of babies, milk is replaced with soy milk, rice milk and food cooked in these alternatives.
It is important to check food labels for presence of lactose or milk when choosing processed or canned foods. Lactose free milk is often treated with lactase enzyme, which enables breaking down lactose into simple sugars and makes it easy for digestion.
Lactose-Free Diet Tips
Follow the diet recommended by your nutritional expert and be aware of any undesirable symptoms. There are many alternatives that are allowed in the diet, which you can focus on. Most of the processed foods contain milk and milk solids, so it would be great to try out lactose-free recipes yourself. Be more creative and explore new ideas of replacing milk with other alternatives. Expand your taste and try adding new types of delicacies using more of the grains, fruits and vegetables cooked in other alternatives. Keep lactose-free products or alternatives that are allowed at hand for those needy times when you are really hungry.