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Eating When You Have Lactose Intolerance

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Chemotherapy medications may make you temporarily lactose intolerant, which means that your body can't digest the milk sugar called lactose. If you are lactose intolerant and drink milk or eat foods with milk in them, you may get diarrhea, gas, and cramps. Some dairy foods such as custard, cottage cheese, and yogurt have less lactose than milk. You may be able to eat them even if milk upsets your stomach.

If you can't eat dairy products without problems, you may have to go on a low-lactose or lactose-free diet. If you do, keep in mind that since lactose is a sugar that's also used to sweeten foods, it may be found in products that aren't milk-based. You'll have to read labels to see if lactose is in the ingredient list.

You may also want to ask your doctor about taking a lactase enzyme replacement (Lactaid is one brand) or probiotics (beneficial bacteria that can help your body digest lactose) to help relieve your symptoms.

What to eat if you're lactose intolerant:

  • Eat other foods that are high in calcium. If you're worried about getting enough calcium, try to eat more leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, dried figs, oysters, and calcium-fortified juices and cereal.
  • Consider soy and rice milk as an alternative to cow's milk. They don't supply the same nutrients, but can be good substitutes if they're fortified with calcium and vitamin D and you're getting enough protein from other foods in your diet.
  • Try imitation dairy products. Try soy cheese and non-dairy sour cream, whipped topping, and coffee creamer instead of the dairy originals.
  • Eat frozen products made from rice or soy milk instead of ice cream.
  • Use dairy products that have cultures in them, such as yogurt, buttermilk, and some cheeses. They have less lactose, and the cultures help your body digest the little bit that's there.

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