Is your stomach a victim to the havoc lactose can cause in the gut? I know as I myself am one of the 7 million Canadians that are affected by a lactose intolerance. Eliminating lactose completely from your diet can prove to be more difficult then you may think. Although it may seem simple to remove obvious dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, ingredients that contain lactose can be lurking in a shocking amount of processed foods. So whether you are trying to remove lactose to aide a distressed digestive system, in an effort to eliminate animal products from your diet, or simply because you believe it contributes to better overall health; here are a few helpful hints to completely remove the hidden lactose from your diet.
1. Recognize processed foods that could contain lactose:
Lactose is in numerous processed foods besides just milk, yogurt, and cheese. Lactose can be added to baked goods for moisture, to chips and crackers for flavour, to gravies and soups for richness, and to make hot chocolate mixes or desserts creamy. Here is a list of some not so obvious foods that may contain lactose:
2. Always read the food label:
Now that you are aware of how many processed products can contain lactose, it’s clear why always reading a product’s ingredient list is important. Here are some terms that can appear in the ingredient list that indicate that lactose is present in the product:
3. Understand the claims on the food label:
In Canada, manufactures can make claims on how much lactose is in the product. The Food Inspection Agency defines these claims as:
- “Lactose Free” = no detectable lactose in the food
- “Lactose Reduced” = the product has been reduced significantly in lactose (a significant reduction is considered to be a reduction in the lactose content by 25% or more)
Successfully eliminating all traces of lactose from your diet may significantly help reduce symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea and cramping if you are lactose intolerant. However, dairy products are a main source of many essential nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. Eliminating these foods from your diet may put you at risk for deficiencies. It may be beneficial to work with a Registered Dietitian to help make sure you’re meeting your needs.
Don’t worry! Eliminating lactose doesn’t mean you have to give up all your favourite foods. Check out part two of this series for some ideas on low-lactose products to make sure you are getting the nutrients you need!
Much love & good-for-your-gut eating,