Going Dairy Free for Crohn’s Disease

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

Going Dairy-Free for Crohn’s DiseaseDairy is difficult to digest for many people. The problem with dairy is actually the natural sugar found in dairy products called lactose. Our bodies naturally produce an enzyme called lactase that breaks down lactose as it is digested, but sometimes people become lactase deficient. When this happens, exposure to lactose will start to irritate the lining of the intestinal tract, causing severe cramping, diarrhea, gas and other uncomfortable symptoms.

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A large portion of the population is diagnosed as lactose intolerant, meaning their intestines have so much difficulty digesting lactose that they are better off avoiding dairy altogether. However, there are many who aren’t lactose intolerant but are still unable to easily digest dairy products due to other medical problems. Those who struggle with Crohn’s disease are among those who often have trouble digesting dairy, even when not also found to be lactose intolerant.

Substituting Dairy to Reduce Trouble with Crohn’s

You don’t need to give up milk, ice cream and cheese just because you are giving up dairy. Milk is the fundamental ingredient in all of this, but that doesn’t mean the products must be made exclusively with cow’s milk. Whether for medical or personal reasons, eating a dairy-free diet is a popular lifestyle choice. This has led many dining establishments and grocery stores to start offering dairy-free substitutes.

Everything from cream cheese to cheesecake can be purchased dairy-free. The exact taste of a dairy substitute is going to depend on the primary ingredient it is created from. While some dairy substitutes are incredibly sweet, others come with a subtle, earthy flavor.

Here are a few common dairy substitutes and suggestions on how to try them:

  • Almond: Almond products are available as milk and ice cream. The nutty undertone of this substitute makes it great with coffee or tea.
  • Soy: The most popular dairy substitute, soy is used for milk, ice cream, butter and cheese. Try having soy milk with your morning cereal.
  • Coconut: Coconut milk has a distinct, rich flavor. While some people prefer the taste of coconut milk straight, its sweetness makes it perfect for desserts like ice cream and pies.
  • Cashew: The soft texture of this tree nut makes it great for creamy spreads. Cashew cheese is a decent non-dairy substitute for crackers and sandwiches.
  • Oat: Made of the popular breakfast grain, oat milk has a subtle flavor and is often recommended in cooking.
  • Rice: This is a popular dairy substitute that is most often made from brown rice. Rice milk is naturally sweet, which makes it a popular choice among those who enjoy a classic glass of plain milk.

Going dairy-free doesn’t have to mean giving up your favorite treats. There are plenty of options to enjoy your favorite foods and drinks without ingesting dairy. Do some research to find out what form of dairy substitute is best for you.

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