Juvenile Bone Health - Lactose Intolerance

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My Teenage Son Loves Milk, But It Seems to Upset His Stomach. Could He Have Lactose Intolerance?

People with lactose intolerance have trouble digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy foods. Lactose intolerance is not common among infants and young children, but can occur in older children, adolescents, and adults. It is more common among people of African American, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian descent.

Most kids with lactose intolerance are able to digest milk when it is served in small amounts, and combined with other foods like cereal. They may tolerate other dairy products such as cheese or yogurt even if milk is a problem. Lactose-free milk products are now available in most stores, and there are pills and drops you can add to milk and dairy products that make them easier to digest.

Be sure to include plenty of foods with calcium in the meals and snacks you plan for your kids. Almonds, calcium-fortified orange juice, tortillas, fortified cereals, soy beverages, and broccoli with dip are a few great choices. Although it's best to get calcium from food, calcium supplements can also be helpful.

How to Read a Food Label for Calcium

The food label, called Nutrition Facts, shows you how much one serving of that food contributes to the total amount of calcium, as well as other nutrients, you need every day. This is expressed as a percentage of the daily value (%DV) of calcium that is recommended. For labeling purposes, this is based on the daily calcium recommendation of 1,000 milligrams for people 19 to 50 years old. Since children and teens 9 to 18 years old require more calcium, their %DV target is higher, as indicated below:

Age  Recommended calcium intake %DV target
9 to 18 1,300 mg 130%DV
19 to 50 1,000 mg 100%DV

Here is an easy rule of thumb for evaluating the calcium content of a food: 20%DV or more is high for calcium. That means it is a high-calcium food and contributes a lot of calcium to the diet. A food with a calcium content of 5%DV or lower contributes little calcium to the diet and is a low source.

If you want to convert the %DV for calcium into milligrams, you can multiply by 10. For example, if a single-serving container of yogurt lists 30%DV for calcium, it contains 300 mg of calcium (30 10).

Getting plenty of high-calcium foods every day is important. To meet their calcium needs, children 9 to 18 years old need about four servings of foods with a 30%DV for calcium (300 mg each) or six to seven servings of foods with a 20%DV for calcium (200 mg each) every day. Foods with a lower %DV for calcium are also important to fill gaps and help ensure that your children get all the calcium they need.

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