It’s a grim reality many of us face: Promptly after eating cheese, we become sick. Should we persevere through our love of cheese and a helping of blissful ignorance, or face the fact that we may be lactose intolerant?

I heard you singing 'night cheese.' Credit: 30 Rock

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms of lactose intolerance, when our bodies cannot fully digest that sugar found in milk, include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, bloating and gas. And you are more at risk for the condition if you are older; have other problems in your small intestine like Crohn’s disease; received certain cancer treatments; or are of African, Asian, Hispanic or American Indian descent.

You can still be lactose intolerant if you are from European stock, however.

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There are varying degrees of lactose intolerance. The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that most people who are sensitive to lactose can handle at least a little bit of it, which is important because milk is a good source of vitamin D and calcium. “One person may have severe symptoms after drinking a small amount of milk, while another person can drink a large amount without having symptoms,” the organization explains. “Other people can easily eat yogurt and hard cheeses such as cheddar and Swiss, while they are not able to eat or drink other milk products without having digestive symptoms.”

Buzz, your pizza — woof. Credit: Home Alone

If you are one of the unfortunate ones who is lactose intolerant to some degree, the NIDDK has tips for managing the condition. Those include slowly introducing milk products to help your body adapt to them, or eating them with other food: “Often, people can better tolerate milk or milk products by having them with meals, such as having milk with cereal or having cheese with crackers.” And if you love dairy, stick to the hard cheeses like the cheddars and the Swisses, because they have less lactose than milk. Yogurt is also often easier to tolerate than milk.

You can also venture into the world of lactose-free products, which are available in many supermarkets, or take lactase tablets before eating dairy to help your body break it down.

Happy eating!

Cheese is an octuple threat. Credit: Queen of Jordan

See also:

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What Your Poop and Pee Should Look Like

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