09/03/2017 16:42 GMT | Updated 17/10/2017 16:15 BST

How I Realised I Had Lactose Intolerance – And What I Did About It

What happens when you make it out of the no dairy wilderness.

Life with a food intolerance or allergy isn’t breezy. The realisation that a slice of toast (gluten), spoon of peanut butter (nuts) or a dollop of yoghurt (lactose) can leave you with gut pain and stomach cramps – or something more severe – changes things. 

Up to 15 per cent of UK citizens are thought to be intolerant to lactose* – the sugar found in milk products. If you’re one of them then you’ll know how tricky it is to forgo foods like pizza with mozzarella, a morning flat white or a weekday bowl of cereal. Or perhaps you’re suffering with digestive difficulties, but don’t want to give up the great taste of dairy.

Either way, help is at hand. Because Arla Lactofree – a range of milk, cheese, cream, yoghurt, soft white cheese and buttery spreadable – is the real taste of the dairy goodness we all love, but minus the digestive discomfort that can be caused by lactose. AKA: massive win.

To celebrate this triumph, we asked some real people how they overcame their tummy troubles, by eliminating lactose from their diet and hopping on board the Arla Lactofree train. Hear their stories of working through the problems that plagued their days and feel inspired to solve your own digestive issues – for good.

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1. Victoria Bonney, 27, London 

When did you discover that you were lactose intolerant?

“I was born lactose intolerant. When I was little, it was all soy milk, but the problem seemed to wear off as I got a bit older. Then, I hit 12 and the intolerance came back – stomach cramps, nausea – looking back, it felt like a three day hangover. Any form of milk product triggered it, and being Italian, it meant that all of my culture’s most amazing food was off limits.”

How did it affect your life?

“The food envy was the worst. I couldn’t have pizza with cheese, I couldn’t have lasagne. All my family, nearly 30 of us, would be sat around the table at Christmas and I would be the only one without a plate of dairy goodness. Not being able to have cereal – it’s not the same without dairy milk – no coffee or tea unless I had it black… dreadful.”

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What was it like eating real dairy again?

“My mum discovered Arla Lactofree when I was at university, and she sent me a food parcel with some of the cheese. I could have cried. When you have lived so much of your life not eating this stuff – it was so exciting. I can have a pizza that tastes normal, I can make a cheesecake with the soft white cheese, I can make a béchamel sauce with milk. My husband isn’t intolerant, but he can’t tell the difference. My only wish is that Lactofree milk would be stocked in coffee chains, for when I’m out and about.”  

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2. Melanie Denyer, 45, London

When did you discover that you were lactose intolerant?

“I struggled with gut issues from the age of 29. I was given a diagnosis of IBS, but it was clear to me that it was just being used as a catch all for tummy troubles. So I decided to try an exclusion diet which, if you like food like me, is soul destroying. Eventually it was apparent, from removing traditional dairy from my diet, that lactose was a problem, and I was also diagnosed with coeliac disease.”

How did it affect your life?

“I had a three year old son when I was first diagnosed and I would spend a lot of time in coffee shops. It would be frustrating always taking drinks black, not being able to eat anything with butter. It totally informed what I did next, which was to set up my own café, Black Cat on Brick Lane, which offers Arla Lactofree. I love introducing my customers with intolerances to it.”

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What was it like eating real dairy again?

“For me, finding the Lactofree products was a revelation. I can have drinks out in public if I take my on-the-go pouches with me, I can bake with it, I even use it to make my own mozzarella. It’s freeing and wonderful.”

3. Laura Hardman, 32, Cheshire 

When did you find out you were lactose intolerant?

“I had been having on-going stomach issues for two years and had every test under the sun. I kept going back and back to the doctors. It was horrendous. I didn’t have signs that looked to be distinctly food intolerance-related, but I tried cutting out wheat. That changed nothing. But when I stopped consuming dairy, I saw an immediate difference. Discovering that was revolutionary and honestly changed my life.”

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 How did it affect your life?

“God, I missed butter. I’m a real toast person and hated the alternatives. I couldn’t eat loads of my favourite foods like creamy pasta sauces, I couldn’t have milk in my tea or coffee, every time someone in the office brought in treats like cream cakes, I had to say ‘no.’ It turned out that my whole diet was based around dairy, which I didn’t realise before.”

What was it like eating real dairy again?

“Fantastic. With the Arla Lactofree products, it was just the same again, but without the illness. I could use the cream for my pasta dishes, had butter back on my toast, could use the soft white cheese for baking and, at Christmas, I made my favourite dessert of mini panna cottas. You never need to adjust the recipe – it’s an exact match.”


The Arla Lactofree range includes skimmed, semi-skimmed, whole and chocolate dairy drink, mild and mature cheddar, soft white cheese, natural and fruit yogurts, long-life semi-skimmed portion packs, cream and spreadable. Visit arlafoods.co.uk/lactofree for more information.

*Am J Clin Nutr February 2001 vol. 73  no. 2  421s-429s