As someone who is both lactose intolerant and loves dairy, I know your pain.
Maybe your struggle with lactose intolerance has defined your eating habits for years. Or perhaps you’ve started to realize your grande extra foam lattes don’t have your stomach’s best interests at heart (those delicious bastards).
Luckily for you, I’ve dealt with enough embarrassing gurgles and side-clutching spasms to save you from yourself. While not a medical professional, my five years of trial and error have not been in vain.
Here are six steps I took to enjoying dairy’s rich, creamy bounty.
1. Are You Actually Lactose-Intolerant?
Before you heed any of my sage advice, check with your doctor to see whether you are in fact lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy instead. I may be intolerant to guys who wear trilby hats, but I’ve never gone into anaphylactic shock from their hats brushing against me.
Being lactose intolerant means you have a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which helps break down the sugar, lactose. A milk allergy is different and can run from mild to dangerous.
2. Don’t Cut Out Dairy Completely
Going cold turkey will just make your inevitable moments of weakness that much more unbearable. I went a month without any dairy only to be struck down by a creme brûlée cheesecake. Decadence never hurt so well.
Start out by having small doses of dairy on a regular basis and increase the amounts as you begin to notice fading symptoms. Yogurt or Greek yogurt is a good stepping stone. The probiotics found within can help by modifying your microbiome and may even help increase the lactase in your body.
Progress will be long and slow, but now, as soon as I enter certain restaurants, servers start slicing up cheesecake.
3. Grab Some Chocolate Milk
Flavored and whole milk contain more fat that can help soften the Ronda Rousey lactose blow to your stomach. You’d think the low-fat milk would treat you better, but the added sugar and fat makes your body digest the lactose more slowly.
As a bonus, chocolate milk – in addition to being a time machine to your childhood – will also prevent your muscles from cramping up after a workout.
4. Change Up Your Cheese Game
There’s a simple formula for finding out whether you can handle certain cheeses. Lactose is sugar, so check the nutrition label. Those with lower levels of sugar will be easier for you to handle.
Pick up some brie (aka unicorn milk aged and curdled by a fairy godmother) and other aged cheeses like cheddar, swiss, and parmesan.
Truth be told, most cheese contains very little lactose, but if this is a sensitive area, buy sharp/extra sharp cheddar instead of mild because they age for much longer. The fresher the cheese, the more likely you’ll turn into a hot air balloon.
5. Give Goat’s And Sheep’s Milk A Try
Sheep and goat’s milk/cheese have comparable lactose levels to cow’s milk (only about 10% less lactose), but many people find them much easier to digest. One reason may be that the fat globules in goat’s milk are smaller and thus, absorb quicker and easier.
Try them on their own before you add any to sauces or other recipes, though they make for much creamier bases.
6. Tolerance Takes Time :::figure
Good things take time. As the old saying goes: Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Nowadays, I can have a giant milkshake and as much pizza as I want on a first date without feeling like an alien is about to tear through my abdomen. If you get your body to grow accustomed to lactose, every day doesn’t have to be soy/almond/tofu alternatives (not that there’s anything wrong with those).
Consuming entire bricks/wheels of night cheese a la Liz Lemon is still a forever alone activity, but honestly, it’s worth it.