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Lactose Intolerance During Pregnancy

by: Jyoti Bedi

Calcium becomes especially important during pregnancy for the mother and her growing fetus. However some women are not able to ingest and digest milk for several reasons. In some cases the problem is not about taste. Milk can leave a gassy feeling and in the more severe situation, intense cramping and even diarrhea can occur. Repeat episodes of this means that she is lactose-intolerant. Lactose intolerance happens when there is an inadequate supply of the enzyme lactase required to digest lactose or milk sugar. In such cases milk does little good to the body, anyway.

The degree of intolerance varies; some people are able to handle a glass of milk without any complaints while others cannot even manage a sip. If you are lactose intolerant or if you can't stomach the idea of four glasses of milk each day or simply find the taste of milk deplorable then there are alternatives to getting your calcium supply. You can find ways and means to deal with the problem without suffering stomach upsets.

1. Eat or drink dairy products in small portions a few times in the day instead of larger portions in one sitting. For example try drinking only half a glass of milk, or eat a thin slice of cheese or ¼ cup of grated cheese at one time.

2. Lactose is easier to digest when mixed with other foods, in particular high-fiber foods such as whole grains or cereals. So have your cereals with milk or eat your whole-meal bread with cheese.

3. Have your calcium as a cup of yoghurt or buttermilk, or in blends such as smoothies, soups, dips, desserts etc. Active cultures found in yogurt, known as acidophilus help break down lactose without the aid of supplements

4. Look for lactose-free calcium fortified milk at the supermarket

5. The closer a dairy product is to milk, the more likely it is to upset your stomach. Aged cheese such as cheddar, Parmesan and Swiss may be easier on your stomach because more than half the lactose is removed during processing.

6. Read labels carefully. If milk in any form, even the lactose-reduced version is upsetting, stay away from dairy-based foods.

7. Calcium comes in non-dairy forms: juices, especially those fortified with calcium, canned fish with bones such as salmon and sardines, tofu, greens, broccoli and calcium-enriched soy milk and cheese are good examples.

8. Milk is a major source of vitamin D. If drinking milk is a problem, you will need to try other methods to get this nutrient. A few minutes each day in the sun will help; avoid peak hours since your pregnant skin is more sensitive now. Take a supplement that contains vitamin D, eat enriched cereals and breads and drink vitamin D-enriched soy milk and juice.

9. Take lactase in pill form whenever you eat or drink a dairy product. Check with your doctor on this.

10. Regardless of all this if your calcium supply is still lacking, ask your doctor to prescribe a calcium supplement that won't offend your pregnant tummy.

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