Can’t Drink Milk? Try Lactose-Free—Really!

While you may give a resounding no when asked if you want ice cream, a glass of milk, a cheesy pizza, and other tasty dairy foods, it’s probably not because you hate dairy. 

In fact, we’ll bet you used to adore dairy.  

There were plenty of parties as a child where you devoured dairy before heading home to finish the night with a cold glass of chocolate milk. You would be thrilled on the odd day a kid brought flavored milk to share with the class. 

It was something you loved to have. But then, you discovered as you got older, you couldn’t drink as much as you wanted to without facing unwanted symptoms. And so you started saying no. 

It is a common story, but that doesn’t mean that lactose intolerance is the end of your relationship with milk. 

What is Lactose Intolerance?  

Lactose intolerance is a sensitivity to lactose, which is the natural sugar in milk. Infants can digest lactose because the body makes lactase which helps digest it. As some people reach their pre-teen and teen years, the ability to handle lactose decreases.  

Lactose intolerance symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea that may happen after consuming dairy. The symptoms appear because of an inability to break down the milk sugar known as lactose. The body digests lactose using lactase, a natural enzyme. 

People can often tolerate varying amounts of lactose with no or minor symptoms. This means you can still enjoy dairy foods if you are lactose intolerant. It is not the same thing as a milk allergy

Is It Genetic? 

Lactose intolerance is caused by our genes, but lactose intolerance itself is not genetic. Confused? As we age, the loss of the enzyme that breaks down lactose is a result of our genes. The enzyme lactase can disappear around the age of 10. The ability to continue to digest lactose in adulthood is a genetic trait. 

However, the intolerance is not genetic. If the lactose sugar remains but does not cause symptoms, it is not lactose intolerance. People can encourage this type of digestion by eating small amounts of dairy frequently with other foods. 

How Do I Enjoy Milk Again? 

Lactose-free milk is an option. Really! Lactose-free milk is not just a phrase on the carton. Lactose-free milk is made by taking regular milk and filtering out the lactose or breaking down the lactose into its two simple sugars by adding lactase. Lactose-free milk is real milk with the same nutrients, just without the lactose. 

Browse the dairy section and you’ll find lactose-free or low-lactose options for the dairy foods you enjoyed. Your childhood go-tos are still an option, as there is lactose-free ice cream and lactose-free chocolate milk. 

So next time you play host and go around the room for orders, reach for the lactose-free milk. You may be surprised how many guests change their answer to yes