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According to the estimates of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, currently, approximately 75 per cent of the world's population is affected by lactose intolerance. It is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, butter and dairy products. Lactose intolerance occurs due to the deficiency of an enzyme known as lactase, that is produced in your small intestine. This enzyme breaks lactose into two simple sugars namely glucose and galactose, which your intestinal lining can easily absorb.
In the lactose intolerant population, deficiency of lactase doesn't allow lactose to be broken down. Instead, this sugar from the consumed milk and dairy products sneaks into the colon and ferments after mixing with the normal bacteria. The symptoms of lactose intolerance manifest through diarrhoea, bloating, gas, nausea, abdominal cramp, etc. Your ethnicity, premature birth, diseases affecting the small intestine, and cancer treatments like chemotherapy can increase your chance of developing lactose intolerance. The condition can be diagnosed through lactose tolerance test, hydrogen breath test, and stool acidity test. Sadly, there is no treatment available for this condition. You have to keep the symptoms at bay by reducing your milk and dairy consumption or giving them up completely if the condition is severe. However, eliminating these foods from your diet will deplete you of essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. Additionally, lactose intolerance comes with a host of other complications like low levels of vitamin K. Here, we suggest smart swaps for milk and dairy products to make up for the loss of calcium and vitamin and tell you about other foods to help you manage the conditions associated with low lactase levels.
Calcium is an important nutrient necessary for many bodily functions, the most important among them being bone strengthening. If you reduce or eliminate milk and dairy products, from your diet, you will be low on calcium. According to the guidelines of the National Institute of Nutrition, India, adults and children should take 600 mg of calcium every day. The requirement escalates for kids and pregnant women. While children should take 800 mg of the nutrient every day, for pregnant women the figure is 1200 mg. Calcium deficiency in the body can cause various health issues like muscle ache, cramps, dental problems, extreme fatigue, skin inflammation, osteoporosis, depression etc. To make up for the loss, you should substitute milk and dairy products with calcium-rich foods to in your diet. Oranges, soya, oatmeal, almonds, broccoli, and figs are good options. You may also need calcium supplements.
Goat milk has a lower concentration of lactose than cow milk and your intestine will find it easier to digest it. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and has only small fat particles. Goat milk contains high levels of phosphorous, calcium, iodine, biotin, potassium, and pantothenic acid.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that improve your gut function by altering the microbial balance and ensuring efficient absorption of nutrients. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, they can help manage lactose intolerance. Probiotics increase the activity of the enzyme which breaks down lactose. Moreover, they can be helpful in the digestive issues that come along with lactose intolerance. These live bacteria can be found in foods like yogurt, pickles, and kefir among others.
It has been found by quite a few studies that most of the people who have lactose intolerance, are also vitamin K deficient. So, it becomes important for them to get enough of this vitamin. The food sources are cabbage, broccoli, sprouts, dried basil, etc. According to a study published in the journal Nutrition, vitamin K play a significant role in absorption of calcium and maintaining bone health. It also improves insulin sensitivity, reduces your chance of osteoporosis and cancer and protects your heart.
Bone broth is rich in calcium. It also helps treat food intolerance, allergies and sensitivities due to the presence of natural collagen and gelatin in it. Bone broth makes it easier for your body to absorb calcium, phosphorous, sulphur, magnesium, and other important minerals.
Despite being a dairy product, ghee is free from lactose. This is what makes it the best substitute for butter. The process used to make ghee from cow milk removes lactose and casein from it, making it a very good option for lactose intolerant people. This dairy product comes with a plethora of health benefits. It can reduce inflammation, strengthen bones, and improve your digestive functions.
According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, lactose intolerance is associated with lower vitamin D levels in the body. It also states that people with genetic intolerance to lactose should consider increasing their intake of non-dairy foods rich in vitamin D. This is because it is essential for the absorption of calcium in the body. Deficiency of this vitamin can lead to serious problems like osteoporosis, muscle weakness, aching bones, increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases etc. Therefore, make sure you get enough vitamin D, which is found in salmon, tuna, mushroom, oranges, etc.
If you are lactose intolerant and think that only avoiding milk and dairy products like cheese and butter can help you, you are probably mistaken. There are various other hidden sources of lactose and these are parts of your daily meals. Ditch these foods: Processed grains (cookies, crackers, breads, potato chips), processed meats, potatoes, soup, salad dressings, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, etc.
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