Did you give up milk because you think that you’re lactose intolerant? There may be another reason for your discomfort, and you may be able to enjoy dairy products after all. On the other hand, if you have milk allergies, you’ll need to eliminate certain foods from your diet.
Recent studies have found that many participants are sensitive to specific milk proteins rather than to lactose itself. As a result, they can digest milk without bloating, diarrhea, and other symptoms as long as the milk contains only the safe proteins.
The research also raises questions about the number of people who are lactose-intolerant, considering that the statistics are usually based on self-diagnosis.
It can be complicated to figure out how dairy products affect you, but it’s important. Learn more about dairy intolerance and milk allergies so you can protect your health and eat a balanced diet.
While food intolerances cause discomfort, allergies are much more serious because they involve an immune system response. If you have any concerns about your symptoms, your doctor can perform tests to provide a reliable diagnosis.
You can meet all your nutritional needs even if you have to avoid dairy products.
- Use other food sources. There are delicious and convenient substitutes for the nutrients that dairy products provide. For calcium, eat salmon, pinto beans, broccoli, and spinach. Vitamin D can come from sunshine, eggs, and fortified foods. Alternative proteins include fish, meat, soy, peas, and legumes.
- Take supplements. Whole foods are usually preferable, but supplements can help too. Your doctor can recommend what’s appropriate for you.
- Check ingredients. Read the entire label to spot any references to milk. Be aware of related terms including casein, butter, dairy product solids, and whey.
If you’re sensitive to lactose or any milk proteins, you may still be able to enjoy dairy products safely. That could mean putting milk in your coffee and eating your favorite frozen desserts.
- Reduce portions. Just cutting back on serving sizes may stop your stomach from churning. Try eliminating all dairy products from your diet and then reintroducing them a little at a time until you find your individual comfort level.
- Drink special milk. You’ve probably heard of lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk. Now, there’s A2 milk named after the milk protein that seems to be more digestible than the usual A1 variety. You’ll find that A2 milk has the same nutrients and flavor too.
- Consider lactase replacement. There are also lactase replacement tablets and drops that you can put in any food or drink to compensate for low levels of the same enzyme in your body. Studies have produced mixed results, but they work for some consumers.
- Eat cheese and yogurt. If even a little milk on your cereal upsets your stomach, try other dairy products instead. Cheese and yogurt tend to produce less severe symptoms.
- Wait for mealtimes. Any dairy product will be easier to digest on a full stomach. Drink milk with a hearty breakfast instead of serving it on its own.
- Avoid raw milk. There’s no basis for claims that raw or unpasteurized milk can fix lactose intolerance. In fact, raw milk will produce the same digestive symptoms and put you at risk for bacterial infections.
About 60% of the world population has trouble digesting milk, and the symptoms increase with age. However, you can usually enjoy dairy products if you have a mild dairy intolerance, and you can eat healthy even if milk allergies restrict your diet.