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Protect Against Osteoporosis When You’re Lactose Intolerant

The Keys to Bone Health: Adequate Calcium, Vitamin D, and Exercise continued...

She encourages her patients to find a way that personally works for them. In addition to dairy, options include pills, wafers, chewable tablets, and even chocolate with added calcium. Because your body can only absorb 500mg of calcium at a time, O’Connor says it is important to take your calcium supplements throughout the day. 

Getting enough vitamin D can be a challenge for everyone, even those who are not lactose intolerant. Very few foods contain vitamin D, but our bodies can make vitamin D when exposed to the sun. However, like with regular dairy, lactose-free dairy is fortified with vitamin D. Non-dairy beverages, such as soy and almond milk, as well as orange are also often fortified with vitamin D.

You can also get vitamin D through small amounts of sun exposure. “We wear sunscreen every day and stay out of the sun, but you need at least 15 minutes of sun a day to get enough vitamin D,” says O’Connor. Other researchers suggest between five and 30 minutes of sun exposure at least twice a week. Because it is so hard to be sure you have adequate vitamin D, O’Conner and Frechman recommend a calcium supplement that contains vitamin D as well.

Living Proof That It Works

Frechman says she is living proof that caring for bone health with diet and exercise pays off. “At 57, I have not shrunk in height and have zero evidence of osteoporosis,” she says. “I drank lots of milk when I was young and my bones were growing. I exercise like crazy -- weight bearing, hiking, etc. My bone density test is excellent.”

O’Connor says she believes it is never too late to get the message out. “We can’t just focus on the osteoporosis patient. When a patient comes in with the first fracture, the visit is a teachable moment. We must recognize at this moment that this is important for the patient and the rest of the family. We need to tell them, ‘Pay attention now so this doesn’t happen to you.’” 

Reviewed on June 08, 2010

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