Lactose Intolerance & Osteoporosis – How are they related?

By DeDe Hausmann

May is National Osteoporosis Month and why does it deserve that designation?  Osteoporosis is a health condition in which bones become weak and can break very easily.  Around 10 million Americans already have the disease (according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the NOF) and another 34 million are at risk of getting the disease.

To prevent osteoporosis, eat foods high in calcium and Vitamin D, as in DAIRY FOODS. Dairy foods have great bioavailability —meaning the calcium is readily absorbed in the body vs. other foods that are calcium-rich.  Sure you can get calcium from spinach and other veggies and fruits and “calcium-enriched” foods but the calcium has to be easily absorbed.  Milk, yogurt and cheese are three dairy products that provide one with calcium AND Vitamin D to help that calcium get absorbed.  They also provide potassium, protein, carbohydrates and other key nutrients.

To further aid in the prevention of the disease, get lots of exercise (min. of 30 minutes/daily), don’t smoke and limit alcohol use.

Osteoporosis is costly.  In 2005 it cost Americans $19 BILLION with approximately 2 MILLION BROKEN BONES due to the disease.  Most broken bones occur in the hip, spine and wrist and are very painful.

So let’s say you are lactose intolerant, meaning you have a hard time digesting the sugar (lactose) that is naturally found in milk and you experience discomfort after consuming dairy foods.  In most cases, that means that your body doesn’t make an enzyme called lactase that aids in digesting that lactose.

So what can a lactose intolerant person do to avoid osteoporosis since they think they can’t enjoy dairy products.  Lactose intolerance is a very individual condition which finds many being able to enjoy low-fat and fat-free dairy foods by eating/drinking lactose-free milk, sipping small amounts of milk with full meals and gradually increasing the amount over days/weeks, and making sure to include natural cheese (naturally low in lactose), and yogurt (live/active cultures help to digest lactose) in their diet.  Mix milk in with other foods (as in soups and cereals or blend with fruit, etc.)  Solid foods slow digestion down and help the body have more time to digest the lactose.

So those of you that are lactose intolerant, fall in love with dairy again and help prevent getting osteoporosis.   It would be great if we could reverse the trend of developing osteoporosis.  Let’s work on obtaining healthy bones by enjoying dairy products lifelong!  Work to get at least 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy every day and your bones will love you for it by being healthy, strong and osteoporosis-free!

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