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Lactose Intolerance… What’s the deal?

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Lactose intolerance is almost a trend nowadays. Do we all suffer from this intolerance? What is lactose intolerance exactly? How can we deal with it? Let’s demystify all this!

 What is lactose?

Lactose is the main sugar naturally found in milk and dairy products (a detailed table will follow). When we eat lactose, it is digested (broken-down) by an enzyme called lactase in order to get absorbed.

 What is lactose intolerance then?

Some of us do not have the lactase enzyme, or don’t have enough of it. If this is the case, we cannot digest lactose and it remains unabsorbed in our large intestine. At this point, bacteria in the large intestine will “eat” (ferment) the lactose and we will feel very uncomfortable.

How do I feel after that?

Symptoms include:

  • Cramps
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Can also cause weight loss in children

Symptoms and their intensities vary from one person to the other depending on the severity of the intolerance and on the quantity of lactose eaten at once.

 Where is lactose found?

The main source is milk. Yogurt and cheese have less lactose because part of the lactose initially found in milk is fermented in the processing procedure. The following table shows the lactose content of common foods:

Food item Serving Lactose (grams)
Cow Milk (0%, 1%, 2%, 3.25%) 1 cup (250 ml) 12-13
Goat milk 1 cup (250 ml) 11
Sweetened or condensed milk 125 ml (1/2 cup) 15
Chocolate milk 1 cup (250 ml) 10
Buttermilk 1 cup (250 ml) 9
Yogurt ¾ cup (175 ml) 6-8.5
Ice cream ½ cup (125 ml) 3-6
Frozen yogurt ½ cup (125 ml) 4.5
Hard cheese (mozzarella, Swiss, cheddar, etc.) 50 g (1.5 oz.) <1
Cream cheese 50 g (1.5 oz.) 1.5
Blue cheese 50 g (1.5 oz.) 1
Cottage cheese 50 g (1.5 oz.) 3

Be careful with all milk-based beverages, such as hot chocolate or lattes. Those can contain 7-12 g of lactose per cup.

 

Lactose can also be added into some manufactured food items like:

commercial soups and broths, sauces, salad dressings, dips, powder mixes for hot chocolate and other beverages, cake mixes, cream-based liquors and drinks, cheese or ranch flavoured chips or crackers, even sweeteners made with lactose like Equal.

 

Solution? Read the list of ingredients and look for:  

Milk or milk solids Lactose
Malted milk Whey
Buttermilk Yogurt
Curds Sweet or sour cream
Milk powder Cheese flavours

How to live with lactose intolerance?

Does that mean I can’t eat lactose anymore?

It is important to know that you can still tolerate some foods that contain lactose like yogurt or cheese, even if you are lactose intolerant. As mentioned earlier, it could only be a reduced amount of lactase in your body and not the total absence of it. Sometimes even a small amount of milk is tolerated!

You will have to test your symptoms after eating food with lactose. To better detect your symptoms, introduce one item at a time and start with a small quantity. You can even keep a food log.

What are other tips and alternatives?

  • Avoid consuming food items known to cause discomfort after being tested.
  • Choose lactose-free milk, yogurt, or cheese. Pay attention to the claim on the label: “lactose free” or “lactose reduced”. Choose depending on your tolerance and symptoms.
  • Choose hard or aged cheese instead of soft cheese, such as goat cheese, cottage cheese, etc. Choose according to your intolerance (see table above).
  • Opt for soy, rice, or almond beverages; those are naturally lactose free.
  • Try soy-based puddings for dessert. You can even find soy-based cheese.
  • Use lactase enzyme pills before eating food items that contain lactose. Enzyme drops can be added to milk or dairy products to reduce lactose content (ex: Lactaid, Lacteeze).

Watch out for breaded food items, creamy sauces, battered meat, omelettes, etc. when eating out at a restaurant.

How do you deal with lactose intolerance?

 

Joelle Khairallah, P.Dt. M.Sc., nutritionist for Zero Diet

The Zero Diet brand is first and foremost the conviction that healthy eating is a primary factor to attaining a healthy weight and a balanced lifestyle. Thus, we offer nutrition counselling with nutritionists who are members of the OPDQ with our Zero Diet nutrition program in our centers and in companies. We have also developed a healthy frozen food product line that fulfills rigorous nutritional criteria as well as two healthy Zero Diet cookbooks.

References:

Dietitians of Canada. Healthy Eating Guidelines for Managing Lactose Intolerance. 2013: http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Lactose/Managing-Lactose-Intolerance.aspx

Dietitians of Canada. Food Sources of Lactose. 2013: http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Lactose/Food-Sources-of-Lactose.aspx

Credit photo : Pixabay

Author
Joelle Khairallah, Dt.P., M.Sc.

B.Sc. in Nutrition and Dietetics, Université Notre-Dame-de-Louaizé / M.Sc. in Human Nutrition, McGill University / Nutritionist at Nautilus Plus since October 2013


Lactose Intolerance... What's the deal?is a post from I'm taking charge. I'm taking charge is a blog that aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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