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Like allergies, you can absolutely feel it in your body when you have an intolerance to a certain food. However, it can be hard to target what the exact cause is. Speak with your doctor in order to confirm any allergies or intolerances, as there are several ways for them to test for allergies and may put you on an elimination diet to target any food sensitivities.
In many cases of lactose intolerance, it may come on suddenly, even after decades of eating dairy with no issue. Acknowledging this change in your body may be hard, but if you do have a lactose intolerance of any kind, finding non-dairy or lactose-free swaps that work for you will help you feel more energized and clearer in your body, without missing out on any of your favorite meals, snacks, and desserts.
To clarify, lactose is an ingredient found in most dairy products, so it may not be necessary to avoid all dairy. Lactose intolerance can be extra tricky to navigate because some individuals with an intolerance may be able to handle certain products such as sour cream, whipped cream, certain cheeses, or even ½ cup of milk, while others need to more strictly avoid these items. Lactose intolerance affects about sixty-eight percent of the world's population. Additionally, it is normal to lose tolerance to lactose as you age. If you find yourself feeling unable to digest lactose, you are far from alone!
Primary lactose intolerance is a result of aging since, as people age, they produce less lactase. Lactase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose.
Secondary lactose intolerance is due to an underlying illness and normal lactose digestion may be restored after successful treatment of the disorder.
Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance describes an individual who is born with the condition. Though rare, in certain cases, lactose intolerance may be inherited. A tell-tale sign of this type of lactose intolerance is when a baby is intolerant of breast milk.
Developmental lactose intolerance occurs within premature babies. After the 34th week of pregnancy, lactase production in the baby begins.
**If your symptoms are tied to other foods, for example foods continuing gluten, or you notice any ongoing discomfort, you should seek further guidance with the help of a gastroenterologist
IDENTIFYING LACTOSE INTOLERANCE
If you start to notice discomfort anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours after eating, take note of what you ate. Did your meal or snack include any dairy products? If so, start tracking your symptoms by jotting down what you ate and how you felt after. If these physical symptoms are only after eating dairy, start eliminating these products from your lifestyle and check-in again with how you feel.
Signs of Lactose intolerance:
Nausea, headaches & vomiting
Stomach Cramps & Gas
Though there are pills such as Lactaid to assist in processing lactose, there have been many studies showing the benefits of eliminating or limiting dairy products for everyone, not just those who have an intolerance. In any of the non-dairy options, you will be ingesting less sugar and saturated fat as you would when consuming cow's milk. At first, it may be hard to navigate without dairy, but rest assured, there are so many non-dairy and lactose-free options on the market.
Some of the benefits of limiting or eliminating dairy include:
Less inflammation and mucus in the body.
Less exposure to hormones that increase estrogen levels.
Lower risk of hypertension.
Reduced environmental impact.
Where will you get your calcium if not from milk?
When you cut out dairy, a common question then arises: where will you get your calcium? Edamame, seaweed, bok choy, broccoli, winter squash, almonds, dark leafy greens, rye or whole grain bread, chickpeas, papaya, sesame seeds. These are just to name a few of the plant-based calcium sources! Interestingly, some of these plant-based sources offer a fairly high bioavailability of the calcium, meaning your body is able to break down and absorb this nutrient effectively.
Environmental Impact of the Dairy Industry
When thinking about making changes to our eating habits, let’s not forget to highlight how these simple shifts can make a positive impact on the environment. By switching to non-dairy alternatives, we are helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Between the methane emitted from cows, deforestation for cultivating cow feed, the creation of dead-zones and pollution in rivers, lakes, and oceans from agricultural runoff, the environmental impacts are profound and numerous. There are many readily available varieties of non-dairy alternatives, including oat, rice, almond, cashew, pistachio, hazelnut, hemp, soy, pea, macadamia, and coconut milk. Out of these, the soy option uses the most land and produces the most greenhouse gasses. Comparatively, regular cow’s milk produces three times as many emissions and uses over four times the amount of land as soy milk. Similarly, almond milk uses the most water to produce out of the non-dairy options, however still almost fifty-percent more is used in the production of cows milk than in almond milk. It’s easy to see why switching to any non-dairy milk can have a massive impact for the environment.