Lactose Intolerance: Knowing Which Foods to AvoidEven if you are among the seven million Canadians who suffer from lactose intolerance, you may still be able to consume lactose in small amounts. Read on to learn more about lactose tolerance thresholds and how to eat right so you avoid digestive problems while still getting enough calcium.
Lactase deficiencyLactose is a sugar that is naturally present in dairy products. Before it can be absorbed by your body, it has to be broken down by an enzyme called lactase. When your body doesn’t produce enough lactase, part of the lactose is not broken down and can continue on to the large intestine, where it can cause bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.
Variable tolerance thresholds
Most people who are lactose intolerant are able to consume small amounts of lactose without experiencing significant symptoms.
To determine your threshold, keep a diary of the type and number of dairy products you eat. One dairy product should be consumed at a time in small quantities, and the symptoms you experience as well as their intensity should be recorded. Over time, you will be able to determine how much you can consume without symptoms.
Lactose in foods
Dairy products are the only source of lactose, with milk and cream (including powdered milk, evaporated milk, and condensed milk) containing the most. Yogurts typically contain very little lactose, unless milk or milk products are added after fermentation. Be sure to check the ingredient list.
Fermented or aged cheese such as cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan, as well as processed cheese, contain very small amounts of lactose.
Some dairy brands offer a full range of lactose-free products (including butter, cheese and ice cream).
A calcium-rich diet
Dairy products are often the main source of calcium in food. If you consume only a small amount, it is important to eat other foods that are rich in calcium, such as calcium-enriched plant-based milk, canned fish (with bones), tofu, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
If you’re not sure whether you are getting enough calcium, talk to your pharmacist as they may suggest you take calcium supplements.
Making up for a lack of lactase
It is possible to eliminate the lactose from milk or cream by adding lactase drops (available in pharmacies). Be sure to follow the directions on the product's packaging, including how many hours in advance the drops should be added before consuming.
Lactase is also available in tablets, and are typically taken just before consuming dairy products that contain lactose. Lactase tablets can be a convenient option when you are unable to control what you eat, for example when travelling.
If you have questions on lactose intolerance or want to discuss solutions available in pharmacies, don’t hesitate to consult your local pharmacist who is familiar with your health record and can provide personalized advice.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.