Aug. 5 2015 06:26 AM

There are options for those who deal with the issue.

"It's like the worst stomachache of my life. Someone is punching me in the gut. That is followed by nausea and diarrhea," shared the 23-year-old when asked about the impact of lactose on her system. Lactose intolerance can cause digestive discomfort, but each person's symptoms are a bit different.
Self-diagnosis of lactose intolerance is not always accurate. A medical doctor should confirm your suspicions because your symptoms may be from another condition that might need additional attention or treatment. I spoke with my cousin, Alicia, who was raised on a dairy farm and just before entering fifth grade was evaluated for lactose intolerance. An endoscopy and samples from her esophagus, and her small and large intestine confirmed what her parents suspected, lactose intolerance.

All infants are born with the ability to digest lactose, the sugar in milk. However, as some grow into their pre-teen and teenage years, they lose that ability and become sensitive to lactose.

How widespread is it? One out of 10 people claim to be lactose intolerant. That number represents those that believe they are intolerant, not what doctors have reported. However, regardless if they are or are not, if they perceive they are, then these consumers are going to avoid lactose, and in many cases, dairy, all together.

However, Alicia still includes dairy in her diet by consuming lactose-free products, many from the Lactaid brand, like cottage cheese, ice cream, cheese and milk. Things like chocolate chip cookies made with butter and milk chocolate do not create a problem. However, "I know straight up that cheese pizza or regular chocolate ice cream is not compatible with me," she matter-of-factly stated.

"Some people can take a lactose pill to aid in digestion, but it didn't work for me. For others, it's effective," she commented.

For those that can consume dairy products, but in limited amounts or lactose-free, here are options:
  1. Lactose-free milk
  2. Natural cheeses like Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella and Swiss cheeses contain very little lactose.
  3. Yogurt (plain, flavored, Greek) contains active cultures that help digest lactose.
"It's difficult at weddings or for travel to avoid lactose in meals, but it's manageable," Alicia concluded. "Event meals often have lactose-free options – the vegetarian plate, but I love a good steak. It isn't the most tasty, but I make it work."
Hurtgen blog footerThe author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.