Holiday Travel: 8 Tips for Traveling with Lactose Intolerance December 15, 2014 By Cait Hartwyk Leave a Comment Lactose is a sugar found in milk that has benefits for the human body, but, for people who are lactose intolerant, it can cause serious digestive problems. Lactose intolerance happens when the body does not make enough of the enzyme (lactase) necessary to digest lactose. This eighth article in our holiday travel tips series draws inspiration from those eight maids-a-milking and provides travel tips for lactose intolerant travelers. 1. Research the cuisine Before you travel, research the culinary traditions of your destination. Some countries have a highly milk-based diet (much of Western Europe, for example), but other countries use very little lactose in their cuisine (most Asian countries). Some research before traveling will help you know what unfamiliar local dishes are and are not safe for you to eat, and this will help you have a good trip with minimal unwanted surprises. When traveling with any food allergy, like gluten intolerance, preparation is key. 2. Be dairy-lingual Not knowing the local language can be a problem when trying to explain your lactose allergy, and it could result in you eating improper foods. Learn how to say ‘lactose intolerant’, ‘no dairy’, ‘no cheese’ and ‘no milk’ in the local language. A few examples are below: Spanish French Chinese Lactose Intolerant intolerantes a la lactosa intolérants au lactose Rǔtáng bù nài zhèng No Dairy sin productos lechosos pas de produits laitiers Méiyǒu rǔ zhìpǐn No Cheese sin queso pas de fromage Méiyǒu nǎilào No Milk sin leche pas de lait Méiyǒu niúnǎi 3. Pack Lactase Lactose pills can help you overcome digestive problems both at home and on vacation. These pills, however, may not be available in some countries, so it is better to pack them than attempt to buy them when you arrive. Lactase pills will, usually, help you overcome symptoms of lactose intolerance and can be quite useful when combined with other preventative measures. 4. Consume Small Amounts of Milk Before Departure Drinking a small amount of milk on a daily basis prior to departure can help to adjust your body to having lactose in your system (as may well happen on your trip, when you have less control over what you eat). To help increase your tolerance, start by drinking about ¼ to ½ cup of milk with meals two to three times a day for three to four weeks before departure. This method can help you build up a bit of an immunity before traveling so that the problems caused by consuming incidental foods while on vacation are less intense. However, be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your allergy before deciding to use this method. 5. Know Your Body Knowing which foods, specifically, affect your body more than others is extremely important when traveling with any kind of allergy and especially when traveling with lactose intolerance. One example of a food with variable impact is cheese. Some types of cheese contain very little lactose while others have a comparatively high amount. Similarly, the composition of ice cream is slightly different from gelato or frozen yogurt, so your body may respond differently to apparently similar foods. If you can handle something at home, then go for it abroad, but, if not, avoid that food as you normally would. 6. Prepare for a Range of Symptoms Symptoms of lactose intolerance can be mild or severe depending on the severity of your allergy and exactly what you may have eaten. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, bloating, and gas but can also progress to more severe digestive upset. Be aware of the symptoms that tend to result after eating various foods so that you can be prepared for what might happen. Most developed countries will have almost everything you need to overcome your symptoms, but the options available in developing countries and rural areas could be a bit sparser. Bring with you a range of treatment options so that you are ready for unexpected outcomes from dining in local restaurants. 7. Don’t be Embarrassed Tell everyone who needs to know that you are lactose intolerant. This is not the time to be a silent traveler! Travel partners should be informed of your allergy. If you are eating in someone’s home, tell them about your intolerance as well. Most hosts feel better knowing you have dietary limitations in advance rather than accidentally causing a flare up. Lactose intolerance is nothing to be embarrassed about, and telling others will help everyone (yourself included!) stay much more comfortable throughout your trip. 8. Prepare, but do not Obsess Taking simple precautions and avoiding certain foods should help you to avoid most problems. Above all, enjoy your trip, as that is what travel is about! Worrying about what may or may not affect you can be stressful, but proper preparations help you to avoid unpleasant situations or be prepared for them in the event they arise. Do you have lactose intolerance? What have you found to be the best way to travel with the issue? Comment below or on our Facebook page to share your tips!