The Lactose Intolerant Cheese Lover
*Before I begin this post, I would just like to put a little disclaimer. I’m not a doctor, I simply would like to explain lactose intolerance and some common misconceptions about it when it comes to cheese. Likewise, lactose intolerance and a milk allergy are two different things, which I will explain in this post. If you believe that you have either of these, discuss it with your doctor before taking any medications or changing your diet!
As an unfortunate sufferer of lactose intolerance (and the butt of many jokes among friends and co-workers), I keep a cautious eye on how much and what kind of dairy products I eat. Sadly, I can no longer stuff my face with ice cream and pizza like I used to when I was a kid without a nasty stomach ache for the rest of the day. But cheese is surprisingly another story. Lactose intolerance is fairly common these days. As I was doing some research on the topic when I first became aware of my intolerance, I came across a statistic that estimated something like nearly 75% of adults are lactose intolerant to some degree, which is why I wanted to write about it.
Lactose Intolerance is the body’s inability or struggle to digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk and occasionally other dairy products. More specifically it is an insufficient amount of lactase, which is the enzyme in your digestive system that metabolizes the lactose you ingest. Symptoms include abdominal bloating or cramping, gas, diarrhea, nausea, or even vomiting. These symptoms can occur anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours after eating or drinking a significant amount of dairy products (usually more than a few ounces).
On the contrary, a milk allergy is just like other food allergies. The body’s immune system sees the proteins in milk as an attack on your body and releases chemicals to fight it, which cause the reaction. Symptoms of a milk allergy can be skin irritations, gastrointestinal issues, or respiratory difficulties, and can range from mild to severe. A milk allergy is usually genetic, though like all allergies can develop. As you can see, a milk allergy is a lot more serious than lactose intolerance, though both should be treated with care.
So what’s a lactose intolerant cheese lover to do? Have no fear! Surprisingly, many cheeses contain very low to almost no lactose at all, though this doesn’t apply to 100% of cheeses. In cheeses, lactose is mostly found in liquid. Harder and aged cheeses have significantly less to almost no lactose because of the aging or pressing processes, so they shouldn’t cause severe symptoms, if any at all. Another way to determine if a cheese has any lactose is to check the nutritional label. If there is more than 1 gram of sugar, there’s a good chance it will give you symptoms. Because fresher cheeses retain a certain amount of liquid, therefore lactose, it is best to avoid theses types of cheeses or keep them to a minimum. Intolerant Turophiles will want to stick with goat cheese or harder, aged cow’s milk cheeses. *Keep in mind though that everyone’s body is different, so while a certain cheese may not give me symptoms, it may be entirely different for you!
We want to hear from you! Are you a lactose intolerant turophile like me? If so, leave us a comment with your favorite lactose-free cheese! 🙂