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Beacon Senior News

Does lactose intolerance put you at risk for osteoporosis?

Aug 01, 2022 03:27PM ● By Fred Cicetti

People who are lactose intolerant don’t make enough lactase, an enzyme that helps digest the sugar in milk. After consuming lactose, they may suffer from bloating, nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea. 

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. This condition creates an increased risk of fractures. One out of every two women and one in four men over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

A major risk factor for developing osteoporosis is insufficient calcium intake. Dairy products are significant sources of calcium. It’s easy to assume that someone who is lactose intolerant might be more likely to suffer from osteoporosis. However, research into the influence of lactose intolerance upon osteoporosis has produced mixed findings.

People who are lactose intolerant should be especially vigilant about consuming enough calcium to maintain bone health. Broccoli, leafy greens, canned salmon, almonds, oranges, certain kinds of tofu, soy milk, and calcium-fortified breads and juices are non-dairy alternatives for calcium. In addition, there are supplements that meet daily requirements of calcium and other nutrients.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women aged 50 or younger and men 70 or younger get 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Men and women older than that should get 1,200 milligrams daily.

There are three types of lactose intolerance: 

• Primary lactose deficiency is caused by aging. The body produces large amounts of lactase during early childhood when milk is the primary source of nutrition. Usually, lactase production drops when you become less reliant on milk.

• Secondary. This type occurs when lactase production decreases after an illness, surgery or injury to your small intestine. This form of lactose intolerance may last weeks and be completely reversible. However, long-term illness can make it permanent.

• Congenital. You can be born with lactose intolerance, but it happens rarely. Infants with congenital lactose intolerance can’t tolerate their mother’s breast milk.

Most people who are lactose intolerant can stand to consume some milk products. Taking lactase enzyme tablets before eating helps many manage their intolerance. People may also be able to increase their tolerance by gradually introducing dairy into their diet. 

Most supermarkets carry lactose-reduced or lactose-free products. Probiotics in yogurt and supplements may also help. 

Don’t self-diagnose lactose intolerance. If you have symptoms, see a doctor. There are tests to determine whether or not you are lactose intolerant.


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