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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY contributor
By Joy Bauer

Could you have a lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is not a food allergy; it does not involve an immune response to milk or lactose, and it is not dangerous. Lactose intolerance occurs in individuals who do not make adequate amounts of the enzyme “lactase,” which is required to digest “lactose,” a specific type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Individuals with lactose intolerance experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea and stomach cramping about 20 minutes to two hours after consuming high-lactose foods like milk, ice cream, puddings and creamy soups.

If you have this intolerance, here are some tips on planning a low-lactose diet:

1. Look for low-lactose or lactose-free milks, ice creams and other dairy products. Food manufacturers use special technologies to remove the lactose from milk, so you can enjoy milk in your cereal, coffee and oatmeal — or a bowl of ice cream — without experiencing discomfort.

Suggested brands to try:

Milk: Real Goodness, Lactaid

Ice cream: Lactaid, Breyer’s Lactose-Free Vanilla

2. Choose soy-based products, like soy milk, yogurt, cheese and frozen desserts. Since these products are made with soy rather than cow’s milk, they are completely lactose-free. Most brands are fortified with calcium and vitamin D so you tend to get the same beneficial nutrients you would get from regular dairy foods.

Suggested brands to try:

Soy milk: Silk, 8th Continent, EdenSoy, Organic Valley

Soy yogurts: Silk, SoDelicious, Stonyfield Farm O’Soy*

Soy cheeses: Tofutti, Vegan Gourmet, Galaxy Foods

Soy frozen desserts: Soy Delicious, Tofutti (or try Rice Dream, made with rice milk)



*Note: O’Soy yogurts are lactose-free but NOT safe for individuals with a milk allergy.

3. Take a lactase pill just before consuming dairy foods. The pill contains the enzyme you need to break down lactose, so you can comfortably digest dairy foods like milk, ice cream, yogurt and cheese. Some brands, such as Digestive Advantage, come in a once-daily formula so you don’t have to remember to take a lactase pill before every meal.

Suggested brands to try:

Lactaid

Digestive Advantage Lactose Intolerance

Kirkland Signature Fast-Acting Lactase

Rainbow Light Lacto-Zyme Dairy-Eze

4. Enjoy dairy foods that are naturally low in lactose. For example, hard cheeses like Cheddar and Swiss contain very little lactose (often 0 grams per 1-ounce serving). If the package label says a serving contains 0 grams sugar, then the product contains an insignificant amount of lactose.

Could you be reactive to gluten?

People who have a condition called celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease affecting the digestive system that is triggered by a protein found in wheat, barley and rye called gluten. When a person with celiac eats gluten, the body’s immune system responds by attacking the walls of the gastrointestinal tract. If you or your doctor suspects you may have celiac, you can be screened using a simple blood test. If the blood test is positive for celiac, your doctor will likely take a tissue biopsy of your small intestines to confirm the diagnosis.

Individuals diagnosed with celiac disease need to eat a gluten-free diet for the remainder of their lives in order to remain symptom-free and prevent additional damage to their gut lining. That means they have to completely avoid wheat, rye, barley, and any ingredients or food additives that contain these grains. Individuals with celiac cannot eat standard bread, pasta, or baked goods made with wheat flour (or any condiments or other processed foods with gluten-containing ingredients or additives). Thankfully, because celiac disease is now recognized as a common condition, there are lots of new gluten-free versions of our favorite foods available on the market to make life easier.

Gluten-free products to consider:

CEREALS

Nature's Path Gluten-Free Whole O's, Crunchy Maple Surprise, or Mesa Sunrise

Arrowhead Mills Organic Maple Buckwheat Flakes

Erewhon Gluten-Free Crispy Brown Rice Cereal (Regular or Mixed Berries)

Health Valley Organic Blue Corn Flakes

Barbara's Bakery Puffins (Honey Rice flavor only) or Organic Brown Rice Crisps

Corn or Rice Chex

Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal

BREADS

Ener-G Bread: Seattle Brown Loaf or Brown Rice Loaf

Food for Life: Wheat & Gluten Free Whole Grain Brown Rice Bread, Rice Almond Bread, or Raisin Pecan Bread

Food for Life Whole Grain Brown Rice Tortillas

CRACKERS

Mary's Gone Crackers

Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers

PASTAS

Deboles Pastas (multigrain varieties)

Hodgson Mill Gluten-Free Brown Rice Pastas

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pastas

Le Veneziane Corn Flour Pasta

SNACK BARS

Lara Bars

Kind Bars

BAKING MIXES

Arrowhead Mills Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Mix

Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pancake Mix

Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix

For more information on healthy eating, visit www.JoyBauer.com.

Find out if Joy's Life Diet is right for you at JoyBauer.com