Lactose intolerance stems from a deficit of lactase, a digestive enzyme produced in the small intestine. Lactase is necessary for the breakdown of lactose in dairy products.
Shifting hormone levels during menopause can cause your body to stop producing lactase and you may find that you can no longer tolerate lactose.
Bloating, abdominal cramps, nausea, wind and diarrhoea. While the symptoms are usually mild, they can grow severe at times. A diet that limits dairy products can help control the symptoms.
Eating fewer dairy products can help you control the uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms of lactose intolerance, or you may need to go the ‘Full Monty’ and cut them out totally!
While dairy products offer a source of calcium and other nutrients, many non-dairy foods have the same, if not better nutritional benefits, Including:
- Pinto beans
- Sesame Seeds
Cow milk substitutes, such as soya, almond and rice milk, contain calcium and other nutrients. Do be wary of shop bought milk alternatives, many are not rich in the calcium source and also include added sugar. Much better to make your own!
Some breads and fruit juices are fortified with calcium. Be aware of what alternatives are available in your local supermarket and make changes to suit your diet.
Your doctor will also be able to recommend other ways to increase your calcium intake.
You may still be able to tolerate limited dairy
Some menopausal women find they need to avoid all dairy products. However, most women can enjoy small portions without consequence, they just need to find their tolerance level.
If you have the signs and symptoms of being lactose intolerant, begin by eliminating all dairy from your diet and gradually re-introduce them until you find your ‘tipping A few simple dietary changes can minimise the unpleasant symptoms of lactose intolerance. Here are some ideas:
Tips for limiting dairy in your diet:
Consume smaller dairy servings. If you’re a milk drinker, try sipping on half a glass with other foods. This slows digestion and lessens the symptoms of lactose intolerance. Alternatively, try lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk.
Experiment with dairy foods. Not all dairy foods contain the same amount of lactose, and some foods may cause no problems at all. Hard cheese has less lactose than other dairy foods, so your body may be able to tolerate it. Yogurt and cultured milk products contain bacteria that produce the enzyme necessary to digest lactose.
Beware of hidden lactose. Non-dairy foods may contain lactose if they were prepared with milk. Instant soups, baking mixes, salad dressings, processed meats, and non-dairy creamers are some examples. Check the labels and look for milk, lactose, whey, and milk by-product’s. Some medicines may contain lactose, so be sure to tell your doctor about your problem.
Take lactase enzyme supplements. Lactase enzyme supplements are available over the counter as tablets or drops. They will not help everyone with lactose intolerance, but they are certainly worth a try. They are most effective when taken with a meal or snack.
No medical treatments can cure lactose intolerance, and there is no way to increase the production of lactase. You are likely to find symptom relief by reducing the amount of dairy foods in your diet.
Probiotics are a bit of a buzz word at the moment and, may help you deal with menopausal lactose intolerance. Probiotics are living organisms that are necessary for healthy digestion. They are naturally present in your intestines, and active cultures are also found in dietary supplements and yogurt.
Probiotics are a natural treatment for diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and they are thought to digest lactose, too. They may be worth considering for mild lactose intolerance.
A Word On Osteoporosis
When your body starts to lose bone faster than it can replace it, you risk developing osteoporosis. This is what happens when oestrogen levels decline during menopause
Osteoporosis is also linked to calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies. Dairy foods have always been portrayed as being the best source of obtaining your daily calcium requirements. (I beg to differ, but that’s for another post!)
So, how can you get enough calcium to prevent osteoporosis and avoid the symptoms of lactose intolerance? Here are a few suggestions:
- Calcium supplements
- Calcium fortified milk alternatives or orange juice
- Kale and other dark, leafy greens
Vitamin D, vitamin K2 and magnesium are just as important as calcium in protecting the bones, so be sure to get a little sunshine, sunlight helps your body absorb Vitamin D and break down the calcium.
Vitamin K2 helps bind calcium to the bones and can be found in green leafy veg, broccoli, cabbage, fermented soya, chicken breast, eggs and prunes.
Magnesium helps to keep bones strong and firm and can be found in spinach, almonds, pumpkin seeds, black beans, avocado’s, dried fruit and dark chocolate