Lactose is a sugar found in milk and milk products. Under normal circumstances, our bodies digest lactose to promote cell growth in the body. But, lactose intolerance occurs when the body stops producing designed to break down lactose.
To people dealing with lactose intolerance, a glass of milk or bowl of ice cream can cause hours of digestive discomfort. Traveling with dietary restrictions can be challenging. But, it doesn’t have to be the deciding factor in your vacation if you follow these eight simple tips.
Understanding the local flavor
An important first step is researching the local cuisine. Learn which foods contain milk or milk products and in what amounts they appear. Be aware that many foods may not be familiar to you, and could contain lactose in a way you not accustomed to. Some countries have lactose-heavy diets (much of Western Europe, for example), while others rarely include those ingredients in their dishes (most Asian countries). Just like any vacation, understanding the area and the culture you are traveling to is key to having a safe and enjoyable experience.
Prepare for a Variety of Symptoms
Lactose intolerance symptoms range from mild digestive discomfort and bloating to diarrhea and dehydration. Recognizing the signs of a reaction to lactose is the first step to management.
Symptoms typically appear between 30 minutes and 2 hours after consumption. They can vary in length based on the amount of lactose consumed and the amount that the person can tolerate.
Packing well can help you avoid a reaction or frantic trips to foreign pharmacies. Products like rehydration salts can ease dehydration, while lactase can help you prevent symptoms.
Pack Lactase pills
Lactose intolerance come from on a lack of the enzyme lactase. You can add more lactase to your body by taking a lactase pill. These pills are widely available in the United States. They can help to lessen many of the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
If you only have a mild intolerance, these pills can often stop discomfort if taken ahead of time. Make sure to pack plenty of lactase pills, as more rural travel destinations may not have the pills.
Consume Small Amounts of Milk Before Departure
Slowly introducing milk or milk products into your diet before your trip. This can help train your body to handle the presence of lactose.
Building a tolerance starts with consuming anywhere from a ¼ to a ½ cup of milk with meals, two to three times a day for three to four weeks before you leave. This helps protect you from a reaction when you accidentally take in small amounts of lactose. But, everybody’s body and level of tolerance can differ. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider before starting this process.
Know Your Body
Dietary restrictions can vary from person-to-person. Beyond just the type of restriction, there are different levels of sensitivity as well.
For example, somebody with lactose intolerance may be able to eat yogurt and function normally. While another person with lactose intolerance may try to eat the exact same food, yet respond in a completely different way.
The biggest key is to know how your body reacts to different foods, and then eat within your limits. Vacation is not the place to test your tolerance. Cheeses, yogurts, milk, and ice cream all have varying levels of lactose. Eating within your comfort zone can ensure an enjoyable and comfortable trip.
Be Vocal, Express Your Concern
Do not let the fear of being labeled as a tourist deter you from taking care of yourself medically. Now is not the time to be a silent traveler! If you are staying in someone’s home, make sure they are aware of your dietary restriction. Many hosts would rather be aware of your intolerance than accidentally cause a flare up. Lactose intolerance is not something you should be embarrassed about. Over 65% of the population suffers from some level of lactose intolerance. Keeping those that need to know, in the know, provides for a much more rewarding vacation for everyone involved.
7. Be dairy-lingual
Having the courage to say something is only half the battle. Knowing how to express yourself is just as vital. Make sure to memorize phrases that explain your lactose intolerance before your trip.
Learn how to say ‘lactose intolerant,’ ‘no cheese’ and ‘no milk’ in the language of the area you are visiting. Below are a few examples from some widely spoken languages:
|Language||Lactose Intolerant||No Cheese||No Milk|
|Afrikaans||laktose onverdraagsaamheid||geen kaas||geen melk|
|Chinese||Rǔtáng bù nài zhèng||Méiyǒu nǎilào||Méiyǒu niúnǎi|
|French||Allergique au Lait||Pas de Fromage||Pas de Lait|
|Japanese||Nyūtōfutaishō||Nani no chīzumasen||Nani no gyūnyūmasen|
|Portugese||intolerância a lactose||sem queijo||sem leite|
|Punjabi||Laikaṭōza asahiṇaśīlatā||Kō’ī panīra||Kō’ī dudha|
|Spanish||Intolerancia a la Lactosa||Sin Queso||Sin Leche|
|Thai||Phæ̂ lækh to||Mị̀mī chīs̄||Mị̀mī nm|
Be prepared, not scared
Taking simple precautions and avoiding milk-heavy foods can help you dodge the worst of lactose intolerance on your vacation. But the most important thing to remember is that you are on a vacation! Spend your time on the beach, in the forest, exploring, touring, etc. Trying to plan around a dietary restriction like lactose intolerance can be stressful, but take these steps and don’t let it stop you from living the exciting, outward bound life you lead.
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!
"Traveling for the Lactose Intolerant: 8 Tips to Improve Your Trip is republished with permission of Passport Health."
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