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Alternatives to dairy for the lactose intolerant

photo showing 4 lactose free foodsReceiving a new diagnosis for a long-term condition can be something of an emotional roller coaster ride. On the upside, you finally understand what has been causing your health troubles. On the flip side, you many need to adopt some or even many lifestyle changes. Fortunately, learning that your digestive troubles are the result of lactose intolerance can mean a pleasant ride through the delicious world of milk alternatives.

Understanding lactose intolerance

Lactose is a form of sugar that naturally occurs in milk. During infancy, when milk is the primary source of nutrition, humans produce an enzyme called lactase that enables the breakdown and utilization of lactose in the body. In later life, as additional food sources become necessary, about 65 percent of people begin to produce less lactase than in infancy. If lactase production is sufficiently low, a symptomatic state of lactose intolerance can develop.

Without lactase, lactose becomes indigestible. Rather than being broken down and absorbed, the lactose remains in the gut and can hinder the absorption of fluids from the digestive tract. This can lead to a form of watery diarrhea often experienced by people with lactose intolerance. Undigested lactose also acts to feed the microbes that naturally reside in the intestines. The microbes then produce an excess of gas and the associated sensation of bloating that is also a common symptom of lactose intolerance.

Treating lactose intolerance

Given that the symptoms of lactose intolerance are due to a naturally occurring component of milk, avoidance of dairy products leads to resolution of symptoms. In consideration of all the delicious dairy-containing foods, however, it is no surprise that total elimination of dairy from the diet is not the way in which most sufferers of lactose intolerance prefer to treat the condition. Rather, many people who suffer from lactose intolerance prefer to use non-lactose containing dairy alternatives for their favorite snacks and recipes.

Popular lactose-free products and dairy alternatives

Fortunately, a variety of lactose-free and non-dairy “milk” products are now widely available. When searching for milk alternatives, be sure to start with a look in the grocer’s dairy and frozen food sections for any lactose-free milk and dairy products. These are made by the adding lactase directly to the milk, resulting in a similar although slightly sweeter-tasting product.

Another option for enjoying favorite foods while avoiding lactose is the use of milk alternatives. Almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk and hazelnut milk are just a few of the popular and readily available options. Not only can these be found on store shelves, they are often also offered in places where dairy products are commonly used such as coffee shops and ice cream parlors. For those who enjoy a bit of creativity in the kitchen, many recipes for homemade milk alternatives are also being developed and shared.

Why even the lactose-tolerant are going dairy-free

Even those who can drink regular milk, often enjoy and choose dairy-free milk alternatives. In addition to the great flavors, the lighter texture and consistency of non-dairy milk products also adds variety to cooking and baking. Another common reason cited for choosing non-dairy milk alternatives is the added health benefits. Milk alternatives are generally lower in calories that animal milk, making them a welcome addition to a weight loss plan. Milk alternatives also make for a simple way in which the benefits of specific nutrients can be added to the diet. For example, oats are rich in B vitamins and coconut is one of the few sources of medium-chain fatty acids, making these popular choices as non-dairy milk alternatives.

Creating your lactose-intolerance treatment plan

While intended to be informational, this article cannot replace professional medical advice. Seek out a qualified medical professional near your if you have any questions or concerns regarding lactose intolerance.

Consider choosing GI North to address your lactose intolerance concerns and digestive health needs. Led by Drs. Cofrancesco and Quijano, GI North is located in Cumming, Georgia and also serves the surrounding areas of Alpharetta, Roswell, Canton, Suwanee, Sugar Hill, Buford, Duluth, Mountain Park, Norcross, Gainesville, Canton and Lilburn. GI North is also happy to offer treatment in Spanish, if requested, with Dr. Quijano.

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