If you struggle with lactose intolerance, know that you’re not alone. Experts say that as much as 65 percent of the human population loses some of their ability to digest lactose following infancy.1 In some cases, the impact that this has on your daily life is minimal. In other cases, it is much more troublesome, with consumption of any dairy products causing digestive discomfort and other problems. In addition, similar to gluten, some people who don’t have a biological inability to digest lactose are still sensitive to it.
Naturally, the biggest daily issue for those with lactose intolerance is adapting their diets to minimize dairy consumption or cut it out completely. This means keeping a close eye on what they order when they eat out, what they purchase from the store, and even the approach they take to their general health. Surprised by that last point? Well, many probiotic foods have a dairy component, including some of the most popular ones.2 This means that those with lactose intolerance need to look elsewhere in the food world for probiotic support.
Know Your Probiotic Options
The growth of dairy-free options is being fueled not only those who have lactose intolerance, but also by the growing vegan population that is looking for alternatives to dairy. Here are some of the food options that are dairy-free and packed full of probiotics.
Kimchi: This Korean side dish is noted for both its spicy flavor and versatility, with cabbage as the base and a wide set of seasonings for flavor. Not only is it high in nutrients like Vitamin K, iron and riboflavin, kimchi also has the probiotic strain Lactobacillus kimchi. Studies suggest that this may help support digestive health.3
Sauerkraut: Whether you eat this fermented favorite in homemade German classics or just enjoy it on a Reuben sandwich, this side dish (also derived from cabbage) is high in fiber, iron and manganese. If you want it for its probiotic content, make sure that you buy unpasteurized sauerkraut, as pasteurization kills the beneficial bacteria.
Tempeh: You may have heard of tempeh, especially if you’re a vegan. A product made from fermented soybeans, tempeh has become a popular meat substitute and vegan protein. Along with its probiotic content, the fermentation process makes it easier for the body to absorb soy’s iron and zinc content.4
Sour Pickles: For those who aren’t quite ready to go off the beaten path yet, pickles are a great fermented food that may already be in your diet. As a note, though, in order to preserve the beneficial bacteria, you want to choose pickles that are naturally fermented in sea salt and water instead of vinegar. This is also a good starter food if you want to learn how to ferment things yourself.
For those who are creative and bold, it’s not hard to get regular dietary sources of probiotics without having to rely on dairy products.
What About Supplements?
One of the best reasons to go the supplement route is that you can get more consistent probiotic potency. Because probiotics don’t permanently set up shop in the gut, you need to regularly ingest them for maximum effectiveness. There are other reasons that you may want to get probiotic supplements, as well. For one, while you could eat the foods we mentioned before, it may get a bit repetitive to eat the same few foods over and over. Additionally, what happens if you’re eating out? You may be able to order a dairy-free meal, but a probiotic-packed one isn’t guaranteed.
A great supplemental source of probiotics is Enzymedica’s own Pro-Bio. Pro-Bio uses a combination of exclusive TherActive™ blends specifically designed to help survive the harsh environment of the stomach, so the probiotics can make it to the small intestine. Pro-Bio’s bacterial strains have been proven by science to help maintain microbiome balance in the digestive tract. This leads to many benefits, including digestive health and immune support.
One benefit of using dietary supplements is that they allow for more than one way to handle an issue. Rather than trying to find alternative probiotics, or if you just can’t resist yogurt, you can try to tackle your issue with lactase though supplements.
If you’re looking to address your dairy issues through supplements, a useful tool is Enzymedica’s Lacto. Lacto contains lactase and a set of eight other enzymes that help with digestion of dairy sugar, proteins and fats. In many cases, it’s a failure to digest these other components that leads to a lot of the discomfort we associate with lactose intolerance.
Note that you would want to talk to your doctor or a medical professional before using a dietary supplement, as he or she will be able to guide you to the best options based on your health history.
The good news for those with dietary intolerances and sensitivities is that there are more and more companies out there aware of their plights. This means that there is a growing supply of new products designed to meet with their needs, along with new research to find new uses for other food options that may not have been mainstream items before.
When it comes to probiotics, you want to make sure that you make use of these sooner rather than later, as they can be quite beneficial for some of the most important facets of your health.
1. Heyman MB; Committee on Nutrition. Lactose intolerance in infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2006 Sep;118(3):1279-86. Review.
2. Vijaya Kumar B, Vijayendra SV, Reddy OV. Trends in dairy and non-dairy probiotic products - a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2015;52(10):6112-24.
3. Yoon JH, Kang SS, Mheen TI, et al. Lactobacillus kimchii sp. nov., a new species from kimchi. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol. 2000;50 Pt 5:1789-95.
4. Sudarmadji S, Markakis P. The phytate and phytase of soybean tempeh. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 28 (4)