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What to Do If You Think You’re Lactose Intolerant

What to Do If You Think You’re Lactose Intolerant

Follow these tips if you think lactose—the sugar in milk—is the culprit behind your tummy troubles.

These days, more and more people are embracing the dairy-free life. Whether it’s because of a lactose intolerance or a gut sensitivity, plant-based dairy swaps, ranging from almond milk to cashew cheese, are taking over the milk and cheese aisle. In fact, the sale of lactose-free products in the U.S. is expected to double from 2016 to 2020 and reach revenues of $700 million annually.

Lactose intolerance means you’re unable to fully digest the sugar—lactose—in milk. As a result, you experience digestive issues, like severe diarrhea, gas and bloating.

If you suspect you’re having gut problems after eating dairy, go on a five-day elimination diet. Avoid all dairy—make sure to read ingredient labels; milk is often a hidden ingredient in prepared foods. Then, reintroduce a little bit of dairy (low-fat, please) into your diet to see when or if you have symptoms. If you turn out to be intolerant, stop eating dairy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy milk, cheese and yogurt—there are plenty of dairy-free and vegan substitutes out there that taste equally delicious and have less cholesterol-building saturated fats. Plus, aged cheeses and some yogurts have less lactose in them, so they might not cause as much tummy trouble.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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