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Tips For the Lactose Intolerant

How can a hot slice of ooey-gooey cheese pizza taste so good but make you feel so bad? If you're lactose intolerant, even one bite could have you racing to the bathroom. Here are some tips to help you deal with your dairy-filled world.

  • If your body can't tolerate any dairy products whatsoever, keep Lactaid pills with you at all times. Lactose intolerance is caused by a lactase deficiency, the enzyme needed to break down the lactose (milk sugar) in your food. If the lactose doesn't get broken down, it causes major bloating, gas, or diarrhea. Just pop a pill with your first bite of food containing dairy, and you're all set. If one pill doesn't offer the magic, take another.
  • A package of 60 Lactaid brand caplets costs around $15, so if you're going through three or more pills a day, this can be a big expense. Buy them in bulk and save some dough — Kirkland brand costs $16.50 for 180.
  • If you're not into popping Lactaid pills, avoiding dairy is your best bet, which means being a keen label reader. Look for words such as milk, milk powder, butter, buttermilk, cream, cheese, whey, curds, or milk solids. Hidden lactose can be found in baked goods, dressings, chips, instant soups, candies, pancake mixes, margarine, and even certain medications. If you think a food might have dairy in it, but you're not sure, don't take the chance.
  • If you're able to tolerate small amounts of dairy products, be sure to enjoy them with other nondairy foods. This helps reduce the rate at which the lactose enters your small intestine, and allows the small amount of lactase that your body produces to break down the lactose without feeling overwhelmed.
  • If possible, remove the dairy from your favorite foods. Peel the cheese off your pizza, order the baked potato but hold the sour cream, and enjoy your burger sans the slice of cheese.
  • Look for dairy products that are lactose-free. Lactaid milk is an obvious one, but some hard cheeses (like a few made by Kraft and Cabot) and some yogurts (Green Valley Organics) don't contain lactose, so check labels.
  • Look for dairy-free alternatives to your favorite foods. There are tons of dairy-free milks to pour on your cereal — not just soy or rice milk. Use olive oil or a dairy-free margarine such as Smart Balance in place of butter, and pick up some dairy-free chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Companies also make dairy-free yogurt, coffee creamer, ice cream, and cheese so you won't feel like you're missing out.
  • Don't be embarrassed. Tell everyone who needs to know that you are lactose intolerant. That way when you show up at a friend's house for dinner, they won't offer you a plate of fettuccine Alfredo.
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