The Diet for Lactose Intolerance

Today, we're going to teach you what the key points are behind the diet for lactose intolerance so that you can adjust it successfully and avoid deficits.
The Diet for Lactose Intolerance
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 16 December, 2022

Lactose intolerance requires a special diet because it’s a problem caused by the inability of the body to synthesize the enzyme lactase. Therefore, the sugar in milk can’t be digested, so a series of signs and symptoms are experienced that affect the well-being of the person.

In recent years, the number of people affected by lactose intolerance has increased in developed countries. Despite not being a communicable disease, dietary habits can condition its appearance.

Why does lactose intolerance occur?

Lactose intolerance is produced by an inefficiency in lactase production. This problem may have a genetic origin, according to a study published in the journal Nutrients. However, it can also be determined by an alteration of the intestinal microbiota.

Symptoms are experienced a few minutes after lactose consumption. In any case, the time they take to appear can vary depending on the degree of intolerance. The most common symptoms are gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea .

Diet for lactose intolerance

Fortunately, lactose intolerance is a problem that can be managed through dietary intervention. The first thing to keep in mind is the need to remove this sugar from the diet. For this reason, milk and dairy products should be restricted. Only yogurts can be consumed.

However, when a dietary restriction of these characteristics occurs, it’s best to adjust the diet to avoid nutritional deficiencies. The most alarming of them all is calcium.

This mineral is found in milk in large quantities. Its insufficient contribution can impact bone health, as stated by research published in the journal Nutrients. Above all, an inefficient contribution in the case of women is concerning.

To avoid such a condition, it’s crucial to guarantee the presence of calcium in the diet by means of other different foods. Those that best fulfill this function are green leafy vegetables, such as chard, spinach, and leeks.

Likewise, nuts and dates will help to complete the contribution. It’s also essential to ensure that the levels of vitamin D in the body are adequate. This element is key to guaranteeing a good absorption of calcium at the intestinal level. In fact, it’s been shown that vitamin deficiency can increase the risk of bone fractures.

Other important micronutrients

Dairy products are also a source of other important micronutrients, such as vitamin A. This element helps reduce the risk of experiencing visual problems, as stated in a study published in the journal Ophthalmic Genetics . In addition, it has a major role in collagen synthesis and in wound repair.

To avoid deficits in this vitamin, we must emphasize the consumption of red vegetables, such as carrots, tomatoes, and peppers. Some foods of animal origin, such as liver and organ meats, also have the micronutrient. Beta carotenes are what our body consumes, which have the ability to transform into vitamin A when necessary.

It’s also crucial to ensure a regular intake of vitamin D. Many dairy products on the market are enriched with the nutrient. In fact, a deficit is related to an increased risk of developing complex illnesses, according to research published in the journal Reviews in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders. If dairy is restricted, then individuals must increase the presence of eggs and oily fish in the diet.

Eggs in the diet for lactose intolerance.
Eggs can be a source of vitamin D to make up for dairy deficiencies.

Proteins in the diet

Another critical point in the diet for lactose intolerance is the consumption of protein. Dairy products are a source of protein of high biological value that contributes to meeting daily requirements. They have all the essential amino acids and a good score for digestibility.

If the presence of this food group is suppressed in the diet, the intake of meat, fish, and eggs should be emphasized. For snacks or between meals, you can choose plant-based foods with a high concentration of protein, such as nuts.

Although the nutrients in these foods are of low biological value, they contribute to meeting daily needs. You must remember that an inefficient protein intake can increase the incidence of sarcopenia, especially in late adulthood.

Probiotics in the diet for lactose intolerance

A key point in the diet for lactose intolerance has to do with the administration of probiotic bacteria. These are capable of selectively colonizing portions of the digestive tract, generating a beneficial effect. You must take into account the fact that many of the microorganisms that make up the flora can synthesize lactase.

In this sense, experts have suggested that probiotic supplementation could help manage lactose intolerance, reducing symptoms. This is evidenced by research published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. In any case, the effects are greater when the origin of the problem has to do with dysbiosis.

However, keep in mind that choosing a probiotic supplement isn’t easy. You need to make sure that the product has a minimum amount of bacteria.

At the same time, probiotic bacteria must be administered encapsulated. This makes it easier for them to overcome stomach acids, preventing part of the microorganisms from dying due to drastic changes in pH.

Finally, it’s essential that the strain of bacteria administered has evidence for the condition to be treated. In this case, lactose intolerance. Not all bacterial strains synthesize lactase in the internal environment.

Dairy missing from the lactose intolerance diet.
Dairy restriction can lead to protein, vitamin A, and calcium deficiencies.

Plant-based drinks in the diet for lactose intolerance

In the diet for lactose intolerance, a series of plant drinks can be included. It’s clear that they don’t have the same density and quality at a nutritional level, but they can work well.

Most plant-based drinks contain a large amount of sugar added to them, so they have a negative impact on pancreatic health. Their regular consumption can raise blood glucose levels and cause progressive resistance to insulin, which will be the precursor to diabetes.

To avoid purchasing low or poor-quality products, it’s important to pay attention to the labels. Sugar should not be included in the ingredients of any plant-based drink.

A diet for lactose intolerance has to be adequate

Lactose intolerance shouldn’t be confused with other health problems, such as an allergy to cow’s milk proteins. Therefore, if the symptoms described appear, the best option is to see a doctor to start the relevant diagnostic tests.

Then, it’s important to make a series of adaptations in the diet in order to reduce the signs and symptoms of intolerance. The best option is usually to eliminate the presence of this sugar from the diet. However, you can try other alternatives, such as the administration of lactase in pills and the probiotic approach.

Be that as it may, in the case of eliminating dairy from the diet, adjustments will have to be made to avoid nutritional deficits. The most common dangers are linked to a lack of calcium and protein.

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