Milk in its various guises, from cheese to butter to yogurt, can be a valuable source of of necessary nutrients, especially protein and calcium. But for those afflicted with lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy, it can be a source of discomfort and even danger. So if you or a family member has been diagnosed with either of these conditions, some suitable strategizing is in order.
First of all, it is vital to distinguish between these two conditions. Your doctor can perform the necessary tests to determine the accurate cause of the discomfort.
What's the Difference?
Lactose intolerance refers to the inability of the body to digest the lactose, or sugar, in milk. An enzyme
in the small intestine, lactase, isn't present in sufficient amounts to allow conversion and absorption, so the lactose proceeds to the colon, where it wreaks havoc that can manifest as gas, cramps, and bloating.
A dairy allergy involves an adverse reaction to the protein found in milk, casein. This reaction may present the same symptoms as lactose intolerance, but may also result in more severe conditions such as hives, a drop in blood pressure, or difficulty breathing.
Both conditions can be controlled by completely avoiding all dairy products. Since lactose intolerance can vary greatly in severity, it is possible to tolerate certain amounts and types of dairy, depending on individual reactions; and there are milk products that are "lactose-free" that may be safely consumed. For the person allergic to dairy products though, absolute avoidance is usually the necessary course.
Read the Label
It's important for sufferers of these maladies to read product labels carefully. Of course, you want to avoid butter, milk, cream, and cheese. But also be on the lookout for less-obvious ingredients such as curd, whey, casein, lactalbumin, and other milk-derived products.
For those with dairy intolerances or allergies, soy, rice, almond, coconut, and hemp milks make great substitutes. Pour them on your cereal, serve them chilled with vegan cookies, or use them in cooking and baking. You'll find that yogurt and kefir drinks made from soy milk are high in protein and mighty tasty. You can also try dairy-free cheeses, including cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan-style varieties.
So you see, with a little caution and creativity, there's no reason why lactose intolerance or dairy allergies should put a cramp in your gustatory pleasures!
Did You Know?
Red lentils help reduce the amount of cholesterol that gets absorbed into the bloodstream through the digestive tract, says Dale Pinnock, author of The Medicinal Chef.