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Living with Lactose Intolerance

What it is like to live with lactose intolerance…

Today I want to talk to you about my experience with lactose intolerance. For the longest time I have suffered with what we turned in our house as ” a dodgy stomach”. IBS is prevalent in pretty much all of our family, and is something I have suffered with as well. It is because of this, the symptoms of IBS being similar to that of lactose intolerance that for the longest time I didn’t realise that I was experiencing anything more than IBS. I had seen the doctor many times over the year with my IBS but I started to notice a difference. You don’t need me to tell you the symptoms of lactose intolerance, you can look them up here on the NHS website. For me I absolutely lived for dairy. I am/was a huge cheese lover, I loved milkshakes (although I never could stand milk by itself) and I didn’t mind dairy chocolate from time to time. I just couldn’t imagine and not being able to eat cheese ever again.

Changing you life?

When you find out that you have an intolerance or an allergy is really difficult to imagine adapt your life. I really couldn’t imagine not having the things that I loved. I loved cheese, I loved creamy curries and at the time I was also becoming partial to a pudding as well (despite always loving savoury food much more than sweet). For the longest time I tried to cheat, I put up with the side effects in order to eat the things that I loved but that can get you down, especially when you have unpleasant side effects, and I soon realised that I really did need to be sensible about it. A good friend of mine who has also suffered from food allergies gave me some great advice and said that soon enough I will just find I am used to it, and she was right.

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance isn’t the same as an allergy. When you are lactose intolerant it means that your body is unable to digest lactose, which is a type of sugar found in dairy products.  It was because my personal symptoms of lactose intolerance, although sometimes severe, were never life-threatening that is was sometimes easy to cheat to still be able to enjoy the things I loved. At first it seemed like a huge change. Milk was a huge part of my diet how milk is in so many things that you can purchase from the supermarket. Becoming lactose intolerant men I started to look into my food and what I am consuming. One of the things I came across in my research was obviously that of the dairy industry, well for me milk is a huge no no I’ve come to realise that this is not a big loss, I could drink cows milk again I definitely would not. For me cheese is also off there are many great alternatives in the supermarket for people who cannot have cheese use not to have cheese, is definitely satisfy the cheese need.

How easy is it to be dairy free?

When I first became lactose intolerant over six years ago it was incredibly difficult to find anything that was dairy free. As time goes on more and more dairy free options are becoming available, however compared to other food allergies and intolerances I still feel that dairy free options have a long way to go. For example, when you go out to eat there are many many options now for wheat and gluten free alternatives, however it is rare to find dairy free alternatives when eating out. In my everyday life I drink non-dairy milk, I eat special cheese, I stick to dairy-free yogurts (coconut milk yogurts are the bomb) and puddings and even throughout the summer months I can have dairy free ice creams and lollies. The supermarkets are getting there with their dairy free options as well, things have definitely vastly improved over the past six years. When we have shopped in Sainsbury’s I have been very pleased with their variety of dairy free food items and the same with Morrisons. We haven’t shopped in Tesco’s at all but I recently shopped in ASDA and was disappointed to find that they had no dairy free yogurt range. I think as time goes on this will change more and more but I still feel that lactose intolerance and dairy allergies are being left behind compared to other allergies and intolerances, which as you can imagine is frustrating when you don’t have a choice in what you can and can’t eat.

What if I think I might be lactose intolerant?

Lactose intolerance can come in many forms and is certainly thick to each individual person. I find I am able to tolerate goat’s milk and ewes milk in small doses, where is cows milk is completely off. I don’t often eat products with Coates or use milk in it however sometimes when I have a salad I do have a little bit of goats cheese. Finding out of suspecting you have lactose intolerance and be a shock and a potential huge change to your diet. As more and more people are finding out that they have issues such as these you will be able to find comparable products in many supermarkets, making that transition much easier. Giving up your favourite foods can be tough but when you realise how much better you feel for it you won’t want to go back and will wonder why you never did this sooner. Education is so important in lactose intolerance so read up about it find a way through it that works for you. If you suspect you have lactose intolerance or problem with dairy make sure you go and visit your GP and don’t just diagnose yourself online. You may just have an issue with IBS, have another kind of digestive issue or you may be lactose intolerant. It is always important seek medical advice and get the right advice before removing any products from your diet. A GP will be able to tell you the best ways to get all the nutrients you need in your diet previously got from dairy. Exclusion diets should never be done alone without being seen by a GP or a nutritionist.

It doesn’t have to be scary!

I am a firm Believer that a dairy free diet can be better than a dairy diet. You just need to know the ins and outs nutritional aspects you need to cover to live a healthy life. These days I don’t really miss anything. As with anything it is a big change and it seems like you will never get used to it, do and one day you will realise you no longer miss the things you once thought you would never be able to live without.

The most important thing is to maintain contact with your GP for as long as an intolerance or any digestive issue is presenting you with problems. This means that you should make an appointment any time you’re about to embark on a new diet, and also see your GP if your symptoms don’t improve after treatment, because sometimes you’ll need to rule out other issues before confirming a full diagnosis.

This advice is not to be taken in place of medical advice. This is my personal story about living with lactose intolerance. If you feel you may have a digestive issue please seek medical advice.

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