We all need sufficient calcium in our diets for healthy bones. And nothing’s higher in this important mineral than dairy products. But many people can’t eat dairy. They’re lactose intolerant. This means their bodies don’t produce enough lactase – the enzyme needed to digest lactose.
Lactose is the sugar in dairy, and if you can’t digest it, eating or drinking dairy products can produce terrible gas, bloating, and cramps. An obvious solution, which I’ve recommended for years, would be to avoid eating dairy. But not according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Incredibly, they say you should eat it anyway. They maintain that the amount of lactose in a cup of milk (around 12 grams) isn’t enough to cause anything other than minor symptoms at most.
That’s not what I’ve seen in 30 years of nutritional counseling. I’ve had numerous patients who react to the amount of milk in a cup of coffee or latte. Or a cream sauce. And that’s much less than 12 grams.
One argument the NIH gives for continuing to eat dairy is that they also contain vitamin D, protein, potassium, and other bone-building nutrients. Without dairy, you run the risk for osteoporosis, they say. If dairy was a necessity in preventing osteoporosis, all vegans (people who eat no dairy products or animal products) would have osteoporosis. They don’t. That’s because you can get plenty of calcium in dark green vegetables (such as kale and bok choy), soy products, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Vegans who have osteoporosis often lack sufficient protein, not calcium.
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There are other sources of bone-building nutrients in a dairy-free diet that I’ve talked about at length in past articles. These are available to all newsletter subscribers on my website (www.womenshealthletter.com). Meanwhile, if you are just mildly lactose intolerant and want to eat a little dairy occasionally, you’ll find that yogurt and hard cheeses are most tolerable. And you always have the option of taking lactase pills to give your body the enzyme it needs to digest lactose. Just don’t blindly accept the NIH’s edicts to find ways to eat dairy products if they cause you discomfort. You can avoid dairy and live a very healthy life.
If you want to protect yourself against osteoporosis, make sure you’re getting enough supplemental vitamin D (at least 2,000 IU per day), protein, and take a supplement like Ultimate Bone Support along with your multi. It’s high in strontium, a little-known nutrient that helps form strong bones. You can avoid the digestive distress from dairy and still get enough calcium.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand