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Osteoporosis Health Center

Lactose Intolerance and Osteoporosis

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Bone Health Strategies

Calcium and vitamin D: A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is important for healthy bones. Besides low-fat dairy products, good sources of calcium include dark green, leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified foods and beverages. Many low-fat and low-sugar sources of calcium are available. Also, supplements can help people with lactose intolerance meet their daily requirements of calcium and other important nutrients.

Studies have shown that people who have at least some intestinal lactase can increase their tolerance to lactose by gradually introducing dairy products into the diet. These people can often eat small portions of diary products without developing symptoms. The key for them is to consume small amounts of dairy products at a time so that there is enough lactase available in the intestine to digest the lactose. When the lactose is fully digested, symptoms do not develop.

Also, certain sources of dairy products may be easier for people with lactose intolerance to digest. For example, ripened cheese may contain up to 95 percent less lactose than whole milk. Yogurt containing active cultures also lessens gastrointestinal symptoms. A variety of lactose-reduced dairy products, including milk, cottage cheese, and processed cheese slices, are also available. Lactose replacement pills and liquid are also available to help with the digestion of dairy products.

Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and bone health. It is synthesized in the skin through exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is also found in some foods, such as fish oil, egg yolks, fortified margarine, and breakfast cereals. While many people are able to obtain enough vitamin D naturally, older individuals are often deficient in this vitamin due, in part, to limited time spent outdoors. They may require vitamin D supplements to ensure an adequate daily intake.

Exercise: Like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. The best exercise for your bones is weight-bearing exercise that forces you to work against gravity. Some examples include walking, stair climbing, and dancing. Regular exercise can help prevent bone loss and, by enhancing balance and flexibility, can reduce the likelihood of falling and breaking a bone.

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