How to stop being lactose intolerant

What is lactose intolerance?

According to Wikipedia, “Lactose intolerance, also called lactase deficiency and hypolactasia, is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and to a lesser extent milk-derived dairy products.”

This can manifest itself in stomach cramps, bloating, wind, diarrhoea and other health problems whenever dairy products from milk to ice cream are consumed.

How I beat lactose intolerance

Ever since university, 20 years ago, I noticed that I had a problem with drinking fresh milk. I was fine if I ate cheese, yoghurt, ice cream and so on, but if I even added milk to coffee or tea, I’d notice a dramatic difference next time I visited the toilet!

About 6 months ago, someone told me that I should try eating yoghurt regularly as it could help with overcoming lactose intolerance so I decided to give it a go, eating 1-2 pots a day. From purely a financial perspective, I chose the cheapest brands available.

6 months down the line, I decided it was time to test out this theory and tentatively drank half a teacup of whole milk. And the outcome? Over the following 24 hours, I noticed no effects and my toilet visit was normal!

What you can do

So, the question is, what can you do to overcome your lactose intolerance? If yours is mild, that is, you can eat most dairy products, then try eating yoghurt regularly for a few months. If yours is more severe, I’d look at working out what dairy products you can eat (obviously, eggs are not relevant here!) and progressing slowly along this food path over several months until you can take the final step of drinking a cup of milk.

Warning: note that I am not a nutritionist and this is purely based on my personal experiences.

An update

Being someone who likes to push the limits of my body’s ability, I decided to drink 600ml of chocolate milk (90% semi-skimmed). No problems were experienced over the next 24 hours at all! As you can imagine, I am very happy as I always liked the taste of milk and milkshakes.

Another update

It appears that drinking 1 litre of chocolate milk in an hour will pass through me like water through a hose. I won’t be doing that again! In any case, white tea no longer poses a problem.

I also experimented with 500ml of natural yoghurt. That seemed completely fine.

Update over 15 months later

I spotted a half price deal on small Yazoo bottles yesterday so decided to buy a couple. Since the update, I hadn’t touched milk and had stopped eating cottage cheese due to the increase in price compared to plain natural yoghurt. So I had only been eating 200-300ml of natural yoghurt a day for the last 10-12 months. It turns out that I have the intolerance again and even a small bottle will pass straight through me. I always assumed that yoghurt was the key. I guess it helped but not as much as the cottage cheese which I hadn’t mentioned as I didn’t think it was relevant, being more cheese and less milk than yoghurt. This also explains why my body odour is less “European” these days.

My conclusion, therefore, is that the following things will help with a lactose intolerance:

  1. Introduce a small amount of milk into your diet and increase the amount over the course of several weeks
  2. Try eating cottage cheese regularly.

I will leave my original writing as it is purely for historical interest and to help with my understanding of what works.

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