Lactose intolerance is a condition in which a person’s body is unable to break down lactose, a natural sugar occurring in milk. People with lactose intolerance are lacking lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose. When the lactose is not broken down, it passes from the stomach into the large intestine, eventually leading to stomach bloating and wind.
The first step in eliminating symptoms of lactose intolerance is to remove milk from the diet. Milk generally is found in cream, yoghurt, cheese, ice-cream, mayonnaise and salad cream, peanut butter, chocolate, boiled sweets, and baked products such as biscuits and cakes. For people with mild lactose intolerance, it may not be necessary to eliminate all dairy products completely. Some people may be able to have milk, for example, by drinking it with a full meal.
Fresh dairy products may be substituted with fermented dairy products. These include probiotic yoghurt and milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, and hard cheese like cheddar and Edam. Additionally, non-dairy products such as soya milk also may be substituted. Rather than removing milk from the diet, lactase enzymes may be used, either by adding them to foods or taking them via liquid or pill.
For those who do remove dairy, it is important to get enough calcium in the diet. There are many other foods that contain calcium, and these should be eaten regularly. Foods with calcium include broccoli, red kidney and soya beans, watercress, celery, peas, cabbage, parsnips, and fish containing edible bones, like sardines.