Reintroducing FODMAPs: Lactose

This post has taken me ages to write. Basically that’s because I’ve now tried several times to reintroduce lactose with varying levels of success. Reintroducing fodmaps is a complicated business! It is all about finding your limits when eating fodmap containing foods.

Lactose is not a total no-go even when on the elimination stage of the low fodmap diet. The Monash App is a fantastic resource for looking at portion sizes. For example, a ‘fun-size’ milk chocolate bar is deemed safe. It’s important to note that, as with all fodmaps, it’s the sugar (lactose) that’s the problem and therefore you don’t need to rule out all dairy products. Most hard cheeses like cheddar are fine, as are semi-soft ones like brie and mozzarella. Butter is also fine as the amount of lactose it contains is minimal.

I tested lactose for the first time ages ago. In Lee Martin’s fantastic guide to reintroducing fodmaps (I can’t recommend it enough), he suggests ice cream as one of the test foods for lactose reintroduction, so naturally I was delighted by this. You do have to be careful to choose an ice cream which is otherwise low fodmap (so lactose is the only fodmap present). I can’t remember exactly what ice cream I used I’m afraid, but it was definitely from Lidl. Round one was one scoop of ice cream, which was absolutely fine. No symptoms at all!

Round two was two scoops of ice cream. At the time, I had a few symptoms but nothing unbearable. Following on with my three scoops of ice cream in round three it was clear that this was far too much lactose in one go for me. I had the textbook symptoms of lactose intolerance- bloating, gas and running straight to the toilet.

I was quite surprised about my tolerance to lactose. Honestly, I didn’t expect to identify it as a problem, albeit not a huge one. That is the whole point of eliminating and reintroducing though- to find out what your triggers are.

So since then I’ve gladly welcomed lactose back into my life in small amounts. I’ve found it makes eating out that tiny bit easier when there’s one less thing I’m trying to avoid. However, it’s been very tricky trying to strike a balance with how much I can tolerate.

How well I handle lactose seems to be dependant on how stressed or anxious I am (of course, as is everything gut related!). When Craig and I were in Croatia in the summer there was so much delicious looking ice cream everywhere we went. Eventually I got so jealous of Craig eating all the ice cream that I branched away from sorbet and had some too. When one scoop was fine I tried two and I still had no symptoms. I had a few more ice creams over the week and suffered no ill effects. It was totally the holiday magic of being away and not being stressed because I have just not managed this again, with the best will in the world, back at home.

It also depends on the time of day. I mentioned in a recent post about only eating lactose pre-dinner time. I was finding that I could have a chocolate bar during the day but if I had one in the evening I’d get stomach cramps and even diarrhoea. Since making this connection and being more mindful of lactose portion sizes later in the day I’ve been getting on much better.  If anyone can help me out with this one, please do let me know.

I’ve also been trialling lactase tablets. I found out about these from one of my favourite low fodmap blogs, Karlijn’s Kitchen, and they’re also recommended by Monash University. Basically, the problem with digesting lactose lies with the body not being able to produce the right amount of the enzyme lactase to break it down, which these tablets can supplement. They’re pretty expensive so I’ve been using them when I’m out and about and for special treats. So far, they’re working pretty well! I can’t recommend any specific brands as I’m still testing them out but I’ll come back and update this once I’ve got it sussed out a bit better. If you have tried a few brands and have any advice please do let me know, I’d love to hear it!

So it looks like lactose and I are not going to be the best of friends, but we might not be worst enemies either.

I’ll leave you with the links to a couple of useful blog posts about lactose and dairy products on the low fodmap diet from Monash University and A Little Bit Yummy.

How have you got on with lactose reintroductions? It’s certainly been a tricky one for me to navigate but at least I’m learning!


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