Dedicated: Lactose Intolerance and Bone Health

Lactose intolerance and osteoporosis go hand in hand. Osteoporosis is a big problem throughout the world, owing to insufficient calcium intake (which is where something like Algaecal calcium supplements can help out hugely) and I wanted to explore some of the key links between lactose intolerance, something that’s also a big problem in the world. Let’s take a look at the two:

Source: Killing Thyme x Broke & Beautiful Grilled Cheese
Source: Killing Thyme x Broke & Beautiful Grilled Cheese

What is lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a problem that affects many people, and it’s caused when your body doesn’t have enough lactase – an enzyme produced in the small intestine. You need a ready supply of lactase in order to be able to digest lactose. Lactose is the natural sugar that is found in milk and in other dairy products. If it’s undigested in the small intestine, you’ll find that lactose causes a buildup of gas, and within 30 minutes to up to two hours after eating dairy products, people with a lactose intolerance are going to develop stomach cramps. Lactose is a common condition and one that is more likely to occur in adulthood, with a higher rate of occurrence in older adults. Some ethnic and racial populations are going to be more likely to be affected than others, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, and Asian Americans. Lactose intolerance is least common among Americans of northern European descent.

What is osteoporosis?

This is a condition where your bones become less dense which results in a higher likelihood of fractures. A fracture that is caused by osteoporosis can result in a high level of pain and even, in some cases, disability. In the United States, studies have shown that more than 53 million people (yes, that figure is correct) have osteoporosis or are at risk of developing it. The risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • Thinness, or having a small frame
  • A family history of the disease
  • Being postmenopausal or having early menopause
  • Having amenorrhea (an abnormal or an absence of menstruation)
  • Low calcium intake
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive drinking

It’s not all bad news though, as osteoporosis can be prevented. Osteoporosis is often known as the ‘silent disease’ because bone loss can go on for many years without any symptoms or problems – that is until a fracture occurs. It has also been called a childhood disease with adult consequences. Why? Well, because the foundation for your healthy bones begins in childhood, and building healthy bones early on can help you to prevent osteoporosis and fractures later on in life. That said, it’s never too late to get some healthy habits with calcium intake, no matter your age.

So what’s the link between lactose intolerance and osteoporosis?

One of the biggest risks for developing osteoporosis is not getting sufficient calcium in your diet. As dairy products are a major source of calcium, you could assume that people who avoid dairy products due to lactose intolerance aren’t going to be getting enough calcium, and thus are at risk of osteoporosis. That said, there has been research into this and while some studies have found a link between the two, others haven’t. Regardless, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and to ensure that you are getting enough calcium, and as we outlined above, dairy products aren’t the only way to get calcium. Leafy greens are also a great source.

So what’s the bottom line here? We know that you need to get plenty of calcium in your diet in order to avoid osteoporosis, so make sure that you’re using a diverse source of foods and supplements if you need to in order to get your intake right, and stay on top of things as you age with bone density testing.

Lindsay Ginn

Livin' in your basement, eatin' your canned foods.