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Can Lactose Intolerance Cause Nutritional Complications?

Getting adequate nutrition while also being lactose intolerant (LI) can have its challenges. Understandably, many of us are actively avoiding dairy. As a result, lactose intolerance can cause nutritional complications because you may not be getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and other vital elements, the nutrients typically obtained by regularly consuming dairy. In fact, according to the Journal of Translational Medicine:

Individuals with LI are usually instructed to follow a lactose-free diet to reduce symptom manifestations. However, the avoidance of all dairy products in patients with LI is no longer recommended today, as the majority of LI patients can tolerate up to 5 g of lactose per single dose—approximately the equivalent of 100 mL of milk. The tolerance threshold increases if the lactose is consumed together with other nutrients…

Journal of Translational Medicine

This is important, as the exclusion of all dairy products could lead to the development of micronutrient deficiencies. In fact, cow’s milk and dairy products are a major source of calcium, phosphorus, choline, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and vitamin A.

This means that those of us that are lactose intolerant may be able to digest about half a glass of milk per day or enjoy cream in our coffee. Alternatively, we can purchase lactose-free milk if we are extremely sensitive to any amount of lactose.

What Is Lactose Intolerance (LI)?

Lactose intolerance is a condition when the body no longer has significant amounts of an enzyme called lactase. Without enough of this enzyme, the digestive tract is unable to break down lactose. Lactose is a form of sugar found in milk.

Without the enzyme lactase, this sugar sits in our stomach and intestines in an undigested state. As the bacteria naturally found in our colon start to feed upon the lactose we have consumed, we will begin to experience bloating, gas, stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and various other unpleasant side effects.

Why Lactose Intolerance Causes Nutritional Complications?

To avoid the uncomfortable symptoms associated with LI, we may try to remove dairy products from our diet. Due to this, our lactose intolerance can cause nutritional complications because we no longer get the rich and diverse array of nutrients found in dairy. Let’s explore why we need these nutrients and the best possible food sources to acquire them naturally.

Lactose Intolerance And Vitamin D

If you are lactose intolerant, you may not be getting as much vitamin D. Lactose intolerance can cause nutritional complications because you may not be getting enough of this essential nutrient. This is because many milk brands today are vitamin D fortified.

Not to worry, though, you can always go outside and enjoy a little sun. It is essential to partake in regular outdoor activities to maintain optimal health. Natural sunshine causes a chemical reaction to occur within our skin cells. The byproduct is vitamin D. Great food sources of vitamin D include salmon, cod, and farm-fresh organic eggs.

Vitamin D is also a hormone. It is essential to nearly every system in the body. Another reason vitamin D is important is that it plays a vital role in the absorption of other nutrients. Without adequate vitamin D, one may have a hard time absorbing calcium, which we will discuss in the next section.

Vitamin D deficiency is a common diagnosis that is exacerbated by our modern lifestyle. We tend to stay in a lot and do not get outside as often as we should. If you are having trouble getting enough vitamin D, talk with your healthcare provider about adding a D3 supplement to your dietary routine, which is the best form of vitamin D to take.

Lactose Intolerance And Calcium

Lactose intolerance can cause nutritional complications because milk provides a lot of nutritional components that our body needs. When people cut out dairy, they may not be getting enough calcium. As much as 70% of the dietary intake of calcium comes from dairy for many people. It’s important to get enough calcium because an inadequate amount can lead to bone-related diseases like osteoporosis.

Depending upon the level of your sensitivity, you may be able to enjoy small amounts of dairy, especially if it has live cultures like yogurt. Even lactose intolerant people can drink lactose-free milk and regularly consume hard cheeses.

The harder cheeses tend not to have lactose. As cheese ages for at least six months, the lactose is eaten up by enzymes within the cheese. These enzymes are used in the cheese-making process and render it safe for us to eat.

If you still want to feast upon a platter of delicious soft cheeses or down a tall glass of regular milk with cookies, then you can always take a digestive enzyme supplement. The digestive enzyme lactase is a supplement easily found at most pharmacies and grocers.

Food Sources of Calcium

Eating more green leafy vegetables can greatly improve your nutritional outcomes. Vegetables like cabbage, kale, and broccoli can provide a lot of calcium.

Some fish varieties like salmon and sardines that still contain the bones can be a significant source of calcium. Nuts like almonds and Brazil nuts are also a great source of calcium. When out shopping for groceries, look for products that are calcium-fortified and/or are naturally high in calcium.

Calcium Supplements

Calcium supplements come in three forms: calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, and liquid calcium in the form of calcium gluconate. Talk with your healthcare provider to see if a calcium supplement might be right for you and which one they recommend. Calcium supplements are over the counter and easily found at most pharmacies.

Can Lactose Intolerance Cause Nutritional Complications?

Now we know that lactose intolerance can cause nutritional complications because we are not getting that abundant list of nutrients found on the side panel of our favorite milk carton. As we have learned, we can perhaps still enjoy small doses of standard dairy, lactose-free dairy, and/or we can supplement with other food sources to make sure we are getting the nutrients we need. Check back often for new insights, tips, nutritional aids, and informative articles.

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