Milk is one of the main sources of calcium for the growth of children. However, when babies and children are lactose intolerant it is important to know what the milk substitutes so that this difficulty in digesting the lactose in milk does not hinder the normal growth of children.
Thedietitian and nutritionist María Luján Soler explains to parents what alternatives parents have for feeding infants and children when lactose intolerance leads to symptoms in children and infants.
What is the difference between lactose intolerance and allergy?
It is very common for an intolerance to be confused with a food allergy, but it is not the same. An allergy is an exaggerated immune response triggered by the consumption of a food that is well tolerated by the rest of the population. The body makes antibodies against immunoglobulin E (IgE) for a particular food. They can manifest themselves immediately when eating, touching or inhaling food. Food allergy symptoms are hives, redness, bloating, vomiting, abdominal pain, asthma, rhinitis, shortness of breath, or an anaphylactic reaction.
Intolerance is the inability to properly or completely digest food. It is characterized by the presence of gastro-intestinal symptoms or in other systems such as respiratory tract, skin, neurological, skeletal muscle, reproductive and immune.
Is it possible to accustom the body to digest lactose?
The amount of lactose to consume will depend on each person. It is known that there are people who have a 100 percent deficiency of lactase, which is the enzyme that the body has to digest lactose, and others who have less. It may also happen that lactose is not tolerated as a complication of another pathology.
How much lactose begins to be harmful for children who do not tolerate lactose?
It cannot be said how much can be harmful on a general level, since this acceptance is personal. It is known that there are products that have a low amount of lactose and there are people who tolerate them very well, but others very poorly. There are lactose-free products on the market with very little amounts close to 0.01 percent lactose, which are generally well tolerated.
Is it necessary to completely eliminate milk from the diet of children when there is lactose intolerance?
Decreasing or eliminating dairy products from the diet generally improves symptoms. Most children with low lactase levels can drink up to half a cup of milk without symptoms. The abandonment of dairy products and derivatives is a big mistake since it carries significant negative effects such as an increased risk of suffering from osteoporosis due to the lack of calcium. Dairy products and derivatives share a series of nutritional properties such as the contribution of proteins of high biological value, minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iodine and B vitamins1, B2 and B3, A and D which makes them difficult to replace foods.
What dairy foods can be an alternative to milk for children?
Cow's milk has a lactose content of the order of 4-5 percent, while the average lactose content of low-lactose milk formulas can vary from 0.1 to 1.8 percent.
- Butter and cheeses (they have less lactose than milk)
- Fermented dairy products like yogurt
- Goat's milk
- Ice cream, milkshakes and cured or hard cheeses
- Lactose-free milk and dairy products (some brands certify a lactose content of less than 0.01%)
- Lactase-treated cow's milk for older children and adults
- Soy formulas for babies under 2 years old
- Soy or rice milk for young children
How can we increase the calcium intake in children's diets when milk is not consumed?
Lactase enzymes can be added to normal milk or it can be taken as capsules or chewable tablets. In the case of being necessary to incorporate calcium, vitamin D and riboflavin, the following can be used:
- Calcium supplements
- Foods source of calcium: green leafy vegetables, oysters, sardines, canned salmon, shrimp and broccoli
- Products that have added calcium
Food labels must be read very carefully. Lactose is also found in some non-dairy products. If this is unknown and lactose intake is maintained over time, as complications, weight loss and malnutrition can be found.
What are the causes of lactose intolerance?
Among the most common causes are bowel surgery, infections in the small intestine caused by viruses or bacteria, which can damage the cells that cover it (most often in children), and intestinal diseases such as celiac sprue. Lactose intolerance related to celiac disease can present at the time of diagnosis of the disease as a consequence of intestinal injury. Generally, it is transitory and disappears with the recovery of the intestinal villi. The symptoms (diarrhea, bloating, flatulence ...) of intolerance disappear with diet.
How can lactose intolerance be prevented in children?
To this day, there is still no known way to avoid or prevent lactose intolerance.
Marisol New. Editor of our site
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