Diet & Nutrition
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Diet & Nutrition

Lactose Intolerance: Foods to Eat and Avoid

Did you feel any discomfort after consuming milk or milk-based products? Is milk making you not lose weight? Or are you a vegan trying to eliminate all sorts of animal products? If yes, managing diet by not falling deficit of certain nutrients is very important. Lactose intolerance is a deficiency of primary or secondary lactase. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose in food for absorption. People with lactose intolerance don’t have enough lactase to break down lactose and this enzyme deficiency is characterized by abdominal pain, distension, and diarrhea. Studies have further proven that lactose intolerance doesn’t depend on the expression of lactase alone but the dose of lactose, intestinal flora, gastrointestinal mobility, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and sensitivity of the gastrointestinal tract to the gas and fermentation products of lactose digestion.

Now let’s peek into the biological mechanism and biochemistry of the lactase and lactose-

Lactose is a disaccharide consisting of galactose and glucose. These are the main source of calories from the milk of almost all mammals. Intestinal absorption of lactose requires hydrolysis into galactose and glucose by the brush-border enzyme lactase. Lactase activity can be detected from week 8 of gestation, and gradually increases until week 34 and its expression is at its peak during birth. Studies have also specified that about two-thirds population undergoes a genetically programmed decrease in lactase synthesis after weaning. In addition to this lactase activity can also decrease due to the occurrence of gastrointestinal infection, inflammatory bowel disease, abdominal surgery, and other health issues. Be it any of the above reasons, because of which you are not able to tolerate milk and milk products, it is high time to understand how you manage your diet by eliminating these foods. Most nutritionists and doctors are questioned about the best alternatives to milk and milk products. If that is what you are trying to figure out, continue reading to understand the best lactose-free diet 👇

How do we manage lactose intolerance with diet?

Treatment of lactose intolerance mainly consists of eliminating lactose from the diet which includes the elimination of all milk and milk products. Cow’s milk is one of the major sources of calcium and several other vitamins and minerals. Thus, the complete exclusion of dairy products and not having any alternative calcium-rich sources might lead to bone diseases such as osteopenia and osteoporosis. To avoid such risks, there needs to be a partial elimination of these dairy products by slowly introducing alternatives that are high in calcium.

Limit milk and other dairy products:

It is not important to eliminate dairy when you are lactose intolerant. The symptoms and severity depend on the degree of tolerance to milk and milk products. Few people gradually develop tolerance while slowly introducing little amounts of milk and milk products to their diet. In some cases, the symptoms might aggravate. Choose more lactose-free food products and it is very important to develop the habit of reading the labels. Lactose can be hidden sometimes in food products as it is an inexpensive byproduct that dissolves easily and adds a creamy texture to foods.

Include plant-based foods that are high in calcium:

It is a well-known concept that calcium is involved in maintaining bone health. Apart from bone health, it also helps in transmitting nerve signals, releasing hormones, contracting muscle, helping blood-vessel function, and clotting of blood. Plant-based foods like sesame seeds, moringa leaves, other green leafy vegetables like broccoli, fortified unsweetened soya, oat drinks, calcium-set tofu, and some dried fruits are some of the rich sources of calcium. Any plant-based milk and yogurt can be replaced with animal milk and yogurts. Studies have also proven that a diet included with more plant-based foods has a lower risk of developing chronic inflammations and diseases.

Below is the table of the nutritional information of different plant-based foods and their calcium content per 100g

Probiotic and prebiotic supplements:

Probiotics are microorganisms that provide health benefits, while prebiotics are types of fiber that function as food for these microorganisms. Although some studies have mentioned that probiotics can reduce lactose intolerance symptoms, further studies including larger samples are required.

Many foods can be enjoyed as a part of a healthy, lactose-free diet including different types of vegetables and fruits, meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, soy foods, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, milk alternatives like rice milk, almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, hemp milk, lactose-free yogurts, healthy fats, herbs and spices, and beverages like tea, coffee, coconut water, juice. Try and avoid lactose-free products if you cannot tolerate them as they are made from milk and may still contain milk proteins like casein and whey. Vitamin D rich foods might help you absorb more calcium. Including salmon, mushrooms, egg yolks, fortified foods might help you to achieve your daily goal of vitamin D through dietary intake. Get up and grab your daily dose of sunlight for better vitamin D levels in the body.

References:

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/9/5380/htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7318541/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lactose-intolerance/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374238

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lactose-intolerance-101

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