FOR most of us, dairy products are our main source of the bone-strengthening mineral, calcium. But have you noticed recently that after enjoying some of your favourite dairy-based comfort foods you experience some amount of abdominal discomfort like bloating, cramps or diarrhoea?
Well, nutritionist and dietician Jenelle Solomon says that there is a possibility that you have lost your ability to digest milk.
“Many people, especially in adulthood, will at some point find that their tolerance level for milky products is either very low or completely gone. This may occur temporarily in some people but in others, it may affect them for the rest of their lives,” Solomon explained.
But how do you cope with these new dietary needs when you crave and have enjoyed these lactose-rich foods all your life?
Solomon said the best way to ensure that your digestive tract doesn't rebel, is to avoid lactose-rich foods altogether. But many people who are lactose intolerant have found a way to adjust their diets and manage their condition without sacrificing dairy foods altogether. Below she gives some tips:
Check your level of tolerance
Not because you are lactose intolerant means that all dairy products are off limits. You can determine your tolerance level by experimenting with foods that contain lactose. “How you will achieve this is by trying small amounts of foods at a time then steadily increase the amount you consume. Use a diary to keep track of how your digestive tract reacts to each, and in what quantities,” Solomon advised.
Go for lactose-free versions of your favourite foods
There are many lactose-free versions of our favourite dairy-based comfort foods on the market. Try lactose-free or soy milk, sorbets or frozen yoghurt instead of ice cream, or go for the lactose-free option; and vegan cheeses in your favourite pasta dishes. This way you won't have to sacrifice comfort. It's a win-win!
Consume small portions of lactose-containing foods at a time
Depending on your level of tolerance you may be able to eat very small portions of lactose-containing foods. So instead of a glass of milk, a bar of chocolate or a bowl of ice cream, try having a half or quarter of a glass of milk, a few squares of chocolate, or a few spoons of ice cream for each serving. The digestive tract is better able to manage small amounts of lactose at a time.
Explore other sources of calcium
It is important that you get a lot of calcium into your diet; this will ensure that your bones and teeth are adequately supplied. This means that you will have to explore other sources of calcium — beans, for example, are a nutrition powerhouse and a rich source of calcium, says Solomon. “Dark, leafy vegetables, soy, tofu, molasses and fish, particularly soft ones such as salmon and sardines, are a rich source of calcium,” Solomon recommended.
Keep a few lactose drops on-hand
If you can't seem to keep your hands off lactose-rich foods, make sure to take over-the-counter lactase drops or tablets. They may be very helpful in helping you to digest lactose. There is also the option of adding supplements that contain enzymes produced by lactose-digesting bacteria to your food before eating it.
Soak up some sunlight
“One non-dietary recommendation that I always make is to enjoy moderate exposure to sunlight so that the body will absorb vitamin D. This particular vitamin has been proven to be quite effective in helping the body absorb calcium from foods,” Solomon explained.