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Lactose Intolerance: 8 Things You Need to Consider

If you are lactose intolerant, the food world can be scary to navigate. Eat the wrong thing, and your tummy will definitely let you know!

With so many dishes and products that are creamy and milky or contain hidden dairy products, you have to be very careful. What makes it even more unclear is that there are some dairy products lactose intolerant people can eat. Not all dairy has enough lactose to upset your stomach.

If this sounds like a nightmare, do not worry! This article is here to rescue you from stomach pains and guide you to happy eating.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Before getting into what someone who is lactose intolerant can and can’t eat, you may want to know if you are lactose intolerant in the first place.

Lactose intolerance means that your body lacks the enzyme necessary to break down the sugar (lactose) in milk products.

If your body can’t break down lactose, it can cause bloating, diarrhea, and gas when you eat some types of dairy. 

Not everyone has the same degree of lactose intolerance. Some people are only mildly affected, while others are very sensitive.

Does this sound like you? You may want to keep reading.

What is Dairy?

When it comes to lactose intolerance, people generally hear that they can’t have dairy. So what exactly is dairy?

Dairy is anything made with milk products that come from mammals. The most common type of dairy comes from cow’s milk. However, dairy can also come from other animals such as goats and sheep.

What foods have dairy?

Dairy products come in many shapes and forms. Milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese are some of the broadest categories of dairy that can be eaten plain or turned into many dishes. Cuisines around the world use dairy products. You can find it in everything, including main dishes, drinks, and desserts.

Does all dairy have lactose?

The answer is no! There are some dairy products that lactose-intolerant people can eat. How do you know what dairy products you can and cannot eat?

Some general rules are:

1. You can eat dairy products listed as “lactose-free.” Examples of this include Lactaid brand milk, lactose-free yogurt, and lactose-free ice cream. Lactose-free does not mean dairy-free. These products have real dairy but do not have the sugars that upset your stomach, so you are in the clear when you eat them!

2. Hard cheese usually doesn’t have enough lactose to affect your stomach. In milk, lactose is in the whey. However, hard cheese has the whey removed from it. As the cheese ages, bacteria break down the lactose. For this reason, hard, aged cheese only has trace amounts of lactose, which won’t upset your stomach.

3. Dairy products high in fat, such as heavy cream and butter, do not contain much lactose. The reason why is because the liquid part of milk contains most of the lactose. Fatty parts of the milk have very little sugar, so it likely won’t upset your stomach.

4. Fermented dairy products are typically safer to eat. The bacteria in products such as probiotic yogurt or fermented dairy drinks break down lactose, so you may be able to eat more dairy. Full fat yogurt Greek is an even safer option for lactose intolerant people. However, you still may need to limit your intake.

How Can You Identify Dairy Products?

Sometimes, you can identify that something has dairy products based on its taste and texture. Dairy products tend to be creamy and milky. However, with so many types of dairy products and plant-based dairy replacements available, it can be challenging to know if something has dairy. Dairy products can also taste sweet, sour, or tangy. The texture for dairy products can range from soft and creamy to hard and crumbly.

At the store

If you are buying a product from the store, the easiest way to identify if it has dairy is to read the label. In the United States, all products that contain dairy must list it on the label. For example, if there is an ingredient in the product made with milk, it will list the ingredient name followed by (milk). 

Often, labels also say this product contains dairy to make it extra clear.

If you have a dairy allergy, the label will also list if the facility where the product comes from also processes milk. However, this isn’t usually a problem for lactose-intolerant people, just people who are allergic to dairy.

Homemade goods

If you are eating something homemade, identifying if something has dairy products can be more tricky. Sometimes, it is possible to ask the person who made it what ingredients are in what they made. If it isn’t possible, you may need to use your best judgment.

Does ___ have dairy or lactose?

There are a few everyday products that are particularly tricky to identify. They often have the same taste and texture as many dairy products. Still, it can be unclear if they are dairy or not. Here are some answers to your “does ___ have dairy questions?” questions.

1. Does mayo have dairy? It is creamy, but it does not! Its milky texture and taste come from emulsified oil and eggs, not dairy. Eggs do not come from mammals; therefore, they are not dairy.

2. Does bread have dairy? Sometimes, but not always. Some bread contains milk products with lactose, so you may have to be careful.

3. Does chocolate have dairy? Milk, white, and even dark chocolate may have milk. You may be safe with extra dark chocolate but always check the label.

Bonus: Who Else Wants a Chocolate Dairy Free Snack?

4. Does goat cheese have lactose? Yes, it does. It can have as much as cow’s milk. However, goat cheese may be fermented so that some people can tolerate it better.

5. Does ice cream have lactose? Yes, ice cream will probably upset your stomach. Don’t be too sad, though. There are many lactose-free and non-dairy options to satisfy your cravings!

Bonus: Lactose Intolerance Desserts: Haagen-Dazs is the Best!

Navigating Life with Lactose Intolerance

As you can see, having lactose intolerance isn’t the end of the world or even the end of eating dairy. Hopefully, with this guide, you will now feel comfortable navigating a world full of dairy and lactose with ease.  

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