Lactose Intolerance During Pregnancy

by Garreth Myers


Lactose intolerance refers to the body’s inability to process lactase – a compound found in milk and milk products. Lactase is the main sugar found in milk and dairy products and when undigested can result in symptoms such as gas, bloating, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance is most common among children some of whom carry this condition into adulthood. Women who are mildly intolerant may suddenly experience an increased sensitivity to lactose during pregnancy. In some cases, women who never knew they were lactose intolerant before pregnancy may begin to suffer from the unpleasant symptoms caused by the condition. There are also cases where women who were lactose intolerant before pregnancy find themselves able to digest milk and milk products during pregnancy.

One explanation for why pregnant women develop lactose intolerance during pregnancy is that the increased intake of calcium-rich dairy products necessary during pregnancy may aggravate mild cases of lactose intolerance.

Another possible reasons for developing unpleasant digestive symptoms during pregnancy can be traced back to the increase in hormone levels. As hormone levels fluctuate, the digestive system tends to slow down to maximize the amount of nutrition derived from the food you eat. Unfortunately, this slowing down of the digestive process can cause discomfort and symptoms such as cramps, constipation and bloating. Many women confuse these symptoms for lactose intolerance and start cutting out milk and milk products in their diet. The risk here lies in not meeting the calcium intake required to maintain a healthy pregnancy and support the developing fetus.

If you do suffer from lactose intolerance you will notice that the symptoms occur a few minutes to a few hours after consuming any milk or products that contain lactose. If you find yourself reacting adversely every time you eat a particular food item, you may be suffering from lactose intolerance. Consult with your doctor or an allergist to determine the exact cause of the symptoms before deciding on the proper course of treatment.

Once diagnosed as lactose intolerant, you will need to avoid all milk and milk-based products immediately. Along with the usual suspects of milk, cheese, cream, buttermilk and baked foods, milk and milk products can be found in a number of other food items ranging from breads, cereals, processed foods, canned foods, packaged meats, artificial sweeteners, whey protein supplements, chocolates, ice creams, cookies, and cakes. Being lactose intolerant means being ultra careful about what you eat and checking food labels carefully. If ingredients such as whey, milk, lactose, dry milk solids, butter fat, or margarine are listed, the product contains lactose and is better avoided.

Since milk and dairy products are a pregnant woman’s best sources of calcium, other alternatives will have to be included into the diet plan. The best non-dairy sources of calcium are dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, soy milk and soy products, broccoli, tofu, oranges, nuts and seeds, and unprocessed whole grains. Milk and dairy products also supply the body with vitamin D that is important for development and the proper absorption of calcium in the body. To meet the recommended dosage of vitamin D include eggs and fish into your daily menu. Apart from these options, lactose-free milk or lactase-fortified products are also safe for consumption. Alternatively, speak to your doctor about taking a calcium supplement for the duration of your pregnancy. Taking lactase tablets may also help you tolerate dairy products without producing any discomfort or nasty symptoms.

References:

  1. http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/digestive_disorders/lactose_intolerance/Pages/index.aspx

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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