Tag Archives: Calcium

Are you intolerant to lactose?

Do you suffer with a strange queasiness whenever you consume milk or other dairy products? Chances are high that you suffer with Lactose Intolerance.

Lactose is a sugar (carbohydrate) which is found in milk of humans, cows, buffaloes and other milk producing animals, thus deriving the name ‘milk sugar’. For its digestion Lactose needs an enzyme (lactase) which if absent or deficient creates symptoms collectively termed as lactose intolerance.

Most human beings are born with excellent lactase activity which slowly declines with age. Approximately 65% of human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy (0-1 year). Hence there are chances that a person might not be born with lactose intolerance but develop it with increasing age. Infants born prematurely are at a risk of having lactase deficiency because lactase levels do not increase till the late third trimester (6-9 months) of pregnancy.

The degree of intolerance varies from person to person. Most lactose intolerants can digest milk / milk products in varying amounts or in one form or another. The symptoms are seen 30 minutes to two hours after consuming milk or milk products which include: abdominal pain, gas, diarrhoea, bloating, nausea, etc. It is very difficult to diagnose lactose intolerance purely based on these symptoms. To diagnose and ascertain, it is first recommended to follow an elimination diet. A person is advised to completely abstain from dairy products to observe any improvement in the symptoms.  To further confirm the effects diagnostic tests can be administered.

Although the body’s ability to produce lactase cannot be changed, the symptoms of lactose intolerance can be managed with following dietary changes:

  • Avoid lactose initially; gradually introduce small amounts of milk / milk products. This may help people to adapt with fewer symptoms. Also lactose is better tolerated when taken with meals.
  • Lactose is also present in foods as additives so it becomes all the more necessary to read labels before consuming a processed food. Products which mention terms like ‘fat reduced’, ‘low fat’, ‘contains milk solids’ or ‘fat free’ have a higher lactose percentage. The foods which must be taken with caution include: pancakes, biscuits, cookies, doughnuts, processed breakfast cereals, instant soups, salad dressings, protein powders, powdered coffee creamers, etc.
  • Fermentation of milk decreases the lactose content thus making it better in terms of digestion; which means curd is better digested compared to milk.
  • Substitutes can be included in diet to maintain nutrient intake (especially proteins and calcium). Milk can be substituted with soy milk. Non-milk products which are rich source of calcium include: salmon, sardine, spinach, soy milk, sesame seeds, broccoli, etc. Nowadays dairy products containing predigested lactose are available in the market. These can be consumed without any symptoms.
  • Improve the health of the intestines by including probiotics in the diet.
  • Lactase enzyme tablets can be taken whenever dairy is consumed.

 By following these simple tips you can stomach your dairy without having a stomach upset.

Image Courtesy: Digitalart

Learn to LOVE your BONES

learn to love your bonesEver wondered if our body had no bones? Well… it is hard to imagine that the hardest part of our body might not remain hard for long to support our falls….. if we do not take care of them.

The infrastructure of bones is laid in our mother’s womb and by the time we achieve adulthood the process of building bones is complete. Though the base has been built; it is still very important to keep on cementing it all through our lives.

Without going into the technicalities of how bones are formed let us talk about the nutrients essential for maintaining their health. Ask anyone and the reply would be: calcium. Calcium is famous for its role in the healthy upkeep of bones and teeth. Amount of calcium we need changes at different stages of life, its requirement peaking in adolescence, pregnancy and lactation. With age the efficiency to absorb calcium declines, which is one of the reasons why seniors need to consume higher amounts of calcium.

Milk and milk products are the most readily available dietary sources of calcium. Besides calcium they also provide protein and other micronutrients which are important for bone health. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, bok choy (Chinese cabbage); fish with soft, edible bones like sardine, salmon; nuts especially almonds; fruits like oranges, apricots, dried figs and tofu. Calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and flours also contain significant amounts of calcium. These non-dairy foods provide a suitable alternative for lactose-intolerant people.

Give me some sunshine….. Vitamin D the Sunshine Vitamin is needed for proper absorption of calcium from our diet. Food sources of vitamin D are limited, and comprise oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardine, halibut, oysters and shrimp, egg yolk and liver. Milk and some fortified cereals also provide Vitamin D. Vitamin K: required for apt mineralization of bones. Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage; liver, cheese and soybean provide good amount of vitamin K.

Magnesium plays an important role in forming bone mineral. Good sources being green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, unrefined grains and fish. Other nutrients needed for maintaining healthy bones are boron, fluoride, Vitamin C and phosphorus. Good sources of boron consist of avocado, nuts, peanut butter; fluorine – water, fluoridated toothpastes; phosphorus – milk, milk products, peas, meat, eggs, etc.

Few More Pointers:

  • Move it or lose it– Weight bearing exercises (e.g. walking, running, strength training, dancing) help build bone mass and strength in youngsters, maintains bone density in adults, and slows down bone loss in elderly. 
  • Avoid smoking: it hampers the work of bone-building cells and increases the risk of fracture. 
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption: high intake (more than 2 standard units per day) has been linked to increased risk of hip and other fractures.
  • Use salt and caffeine in moderation, as these can promote calcium loss from the body, especially if calcium intake is inadequate.

For elderly with reduced appetite, low activity levels or medical conditions, supplements of above mentioned nutrients may be required. Other people at risk of developing weak bones include pregnant and nursing mom and people with certain medical conditions, for example liver or kidney problems where the diet of a person may be compromised.

Love thy bones. They will support you as long as you support them.


Link to study highlighting the role of above mentioned nutrients in preventing osteoporosis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15883457

Clipart from Clipartheaven.com