Here are some other things you should know about lactose intolerance:
Fact: Lactose intolerance is not a milk allergy.
Food allergies, such as milk or peanut allergies, are autoimmune diseases. People with a milk allergy should not consume any milk or dairy products. Reactions can be severe and even fatal. If you have lactose intolerance, which means your body has a hard time digesting lactose, although you may experience painful and damaging symptoms, they are not life-threatening.
Fact: Some people are more likely to have this disorder.
Natural levels of lactase decrease as we age, so lactose intolerance may develop as we age. There seems to be a genetic component as well. Prevalence rates also tend to be higher among certain groups, including Asian Americans, African Americans, and Mexican Americans.
Fact: Lactose intolerance is diagnosable.
Cut out all dairy products for a few weeks and see if your symptoms improve. For more specific answers, talk to your doctor. They will want to rule out other problems, such as celiac disease. You may also have a blood test or a hydrogen breath test. Both involve eating or drinking something that contains lactose and then checking your blood or breath for signs of not digesting it properly.
Fact: Calcium is still important.
If you're eliminating (or drastically reducing) all dairy, you'll want to make sure to include other foods that provide calcium, such as calcium-fortified non-dairy products like soybeans, tofu processed with calcium, kale, almonds, broccoli, and calcium Fortified cereals. It is important for children who do not eat dairy to get calcium from other sources during growth and bone mass gain.
Fact: You may still be able to eat dairy.
It may take some trial and error to figure out what and how much you can handle, but some people with lactose intolerance can consume some dairy products, including small amounts of milk, without experiencing any symptoms. For example, some people can drink yogurt because the bacteria in it have broken down some of the lactose. Keep in mind that some dairy products have less lactose than others. For example, cheese, Greek yogurt, and even ice cream contain less lactose than milk. You can also take lactase before eating dairy products. Or look for special lactose-free dairy products that have the enzyme lactase added to make them easier to digest.