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Mar 28, 2014 06:33 PM

Lactose Intolerant in April

Wife and I are visiting Paris in 2 weeks. She is lactose intolerant and would love any suggestions for places that might be good to visit. We realize most meals we will have to navigate the menus, but to the extent any good recommendations can make it easier, that would be super helpful. Aside from the no-lactose, we are relatively adventurous.


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  1. Can she tolerate butter and cheese? (Some lactose intolerant people can.) If so, her options are greatly increased.

    4 Replies
    1. re: mangeur

      Actually as long as it is not "fresh cheese", any aged cheese would do, especially hard ones which contain almost no lactose.

      Another solution is to buy a little flask of "lactase" from Drugstore, and have a couple of drops with each meal, and hooray !! All the cheeses and milk and lactose in the world with no issues !

      1. re: Rio Yeti

        Do you have experience buying liquid lactase in France? Decades ago, a trip to the Loire Valley and Paris was instrumental in diagnosing my own lactose intolerance. I've been carrying packets of pill-form lactase with me ever since. However, I'd be able to pack somewhat fewer packets for my upcoming trip if I had a sense of how easy it will be to find lactase in Normandy and Paris.


        1. re: Rio Yeti

          not necessarily, Yeti -- intolerance varies widely from person to person, and what works for one may or may not work in another.

          @ Indy67 -- I would bring your own meds -- that's one I don't remember seeing in pharmacies in France (I'll be honest, never looked for it, but don't recall seeing ads for it)

          1. re: sunshine842

            Maybe you're right, but from my understanding hard and aged cheese virtually contain no lactose, so even though some people may be sensitive to the slightest dose, chances are they can eat Comté.

            As for the lactase, you can order it in any Pharmacie, and (in Paris) they will have it the same day or next day tops. However, I don't have personal experience with it, and am not a doctor... so if you (Indy) have pills that work for you, I would bring them with me (I usually prefer to bring medicine I'm used to, to another country... but maybe that's just me being paranoid).

      2. She has my sympathy from personal experience. There is little to none lactase in heavy cream, butter, yoghurt. There is a slight amount in hard cheeses and some veined cheeses. My fear is having hidden milk, marscapone or ricotta in something. I print out a statement translated from google to give to waitstaff.
        Ps: the lactose drops and pills do not work for me

        7 Replies
        1. re: MarySteveChicago

          I have known people who could eat yogurt but not cheese, and others who could eat cheese but not yogurt.

          We really need to go with the assumption that the OP's wife has figured out and knows pretty well what she can and cannot eat.

          1. re: sunshine842

            Thats correct. We know what she can and can't eat. Was more looking for advice as to places that might be good for accommodating.

            1. re: Gramercy Foodie

              It's the same advice for any allergy or intolerance in France:

              1. Spend a little time understanding what goes into traditional French dishes so you can avoid the obvious.

              2. Recognise menus are usually short in good places so the selection that meets your needs may not be as wide as at home.

              3. Remember kitchens have fewer staff, and culturally changing ingredients and the make-up of dishes is unusual. So it's unlikely the restaurant will restructure a dish for you - unless it's simply the removal of a garnish.

              4. The incidence of allergies in France is lower than the US. Or maybe the percentage people with real allergies is the same but France doesn't have the allergy life stylers that some other countries have. As a result I believe restaurants expect the person with an allergy to take responsibility, be knowledgable, and select carefully rather than expecting the restaurant to adapt to them. That said if you do your bit they will try to do theirs and help (a printed card in French will help).

              5. Many places buy things in, they may have no idea what's in the dish. Thankfully choosing places recommended on CH will generally mean made in house so they should know.

              6. As Parnassien suggests modern maybe better than traditional, traditional uses lots of butter and cream and cheese etc. modern is sparser less dairy based. Saturne for example, or Toutain.

              7. If you decide to try a Michelin 2 or 3 star they will ask you on booking about dietary needs and adapt so if you want a 100% safe meal include a good long lunch at one of these.

              But to sum up most places will have non-dairy meat and fish dishes so there should always be some choice. Choose good restaurants and they will care more, select from the usual recommendations on the board and be prepared to flex with the restaurant and it will be fine (I am super allergic to some nuts and manage with the above strategies with no ill effect).

              1. re: PhilD

                #4 is of interest. I don't mean to get off topic or too wonky but the media was reporting about two weeks ago that gastric distress may be caused by the kind of mammal from which the milk is drawn. The piece cited that U.S. Milk is mostly derived from Holsteins which carry a specific protein, A1, a hard-to-digest protein. Another protein, A2, found in Guernsey, Jersey, human breast milk and goat milk is highly digestible. It would be interesting, to me anyway, to know which breed of cow provides the milk commonly consumed by Parisians. And if you read through this total comment you are to be commended!

                1. re: MarySteveChicago

                  Reading is one thing. Understanding is another. Best of luck.

                  1. re: MarySteveChicago

                    About two thirds of French milk production is from Holsteins.

          2. I can't offer any specific suggestions. But I can say that I have a grandmother who has sporadic bouts of lactose intolerance and she never has any problems in getting lactose-free restaurant meals during her phases of active intolerance. But she is French and can easily explain her dietary restrictions to waiters/ kitchen staff. She also tends to abstain from trad restaurants and instead goes to the very modern end of the cooking spectrum.

            I understand that the sporadic nature of her intolerance is relatively common at her age. A matter of occasionally faulty intestinal absorbtion and bacteria rather than the more permanent intolerance so common among Hispanic, African, and Asian populations. Which leads to another suggestion that ethnic restaurants in Paris might be a solution since these cuisines have historically been largely dairy-free. And after all, in France, couscous is now just as much a national and popular dish as blanquette de veau.

            1. I read that as "lacoste intolerant" and could figure out what in the world????