In the previous section we looked at the options for supplementing calcium. It was also mentioned there that in order for calcium to be utilized, the body needs adequate levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency can be a major contributor to the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, in addition to osteoporosis, and therefore its supplementation is of paramount importance. Its functions include promoting insulin production, supporting an appropriate immune response and cell growth.
When chronically low, it can cause fibromyalgia, depression and chronic fatigue.
By reducing or completely eliminating dairy products, vitamin D intake is also significantly reduced. Although sunlight can be an excellent source of vitamin D, in general most people consume far less vitamin D than is needed to keep their bodies functioning properly in the long term. Especially since vitamin D that is absorbed from the sun, food and supplements is biologically inactive. It needs to be converted in the body to be activated, so it is not a vitamin in the classical sense, but a hormone.
Like most vitamins and minerals, its utilisation depends on other factors. Calcium requires vitamin D for its absorption and vitamin D requires adequate magnesium levels. With adequate magnesium levels, vitamin D is activated and regulates the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus to ensure bone health.
It is also necessary to take vitamin K2, because in its absence calcium does not reach its destination, the bone metabolism, but is deposited on the vascular walls. It is therefore advisable to take a combined K2-D3 supplement with calcium supplementation.
Vitamin D intake should be between 2000 IU/day and 4000 IU/day, preferably taken in the morning, separated in time from calcium. Vitamin D is best absorbed in an oily medium, so MCT oil is a good choice, for example.
When is the risk of vitamin D deficiency higher?
- Exposure to environmental pollution
- In older age (ageing skin can synthesise less)
- Obesity (deposited in body fat)
- Taking medicines that reduce levels (anticonvulsants)
- When dieting
- Hormone-containing contraception
- In case of malabsorption (Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, digestive diseases, upset microbiome)
Unfortunately, in lactose intolerance, adverse effects may occur before diagnosis, as the person concerned has not yet avoided foods containing lactose. Recurrent diarrhoea and the strong acids produced from the lactose broken down by the intestinal bacteria can seriously damage the intestinal flora. People with lactose intolerance may be particularly at risk of developing colon cancer. In Hungary, there has been one death from colorectal cancer in every week over the past 10 years that occurred under the age of 40. Previously, this was only observed in people aged 60-70 years. By restoring the gut flora, the unpleasant symptoms of lactose intolerance are also reduced more quickly.
People with lactose intolerance need to pay close attention to maintaining a healthy gut flora, which not only prevents the proliferation of harmful bacteria, fungi and other pathogens, but also helps in the production of vitamin K and the proper absorption and utilisation of nutrients, as already mentioned.
The microbiome plays an important role in the proper functioning of the immune system.
Our gut flora is an integral and important part of our organism, a microbiome made up of 4 to 500 species of bacteria and fungi living in symbiosis with us. These bacteria and fungi can be found in our food, on our skin, in the oral cavity, in the intestinal wall, and in the processed intestinal contents themselves. The distribution of species is influenced by which part of the gut we are in, the local chemistry of that part, and what stage of life we are in.
We need to protect and nourish the microbiome and we can do this with prebiotic foods. The bacterial strains that make up the gut flora get the nutrients they need from complex carbohydrates and fibre. The role of gut flora is paramount in all physiological processes, and it is also important for the proper functioning of the immune system, the production of lactase enzyme, vitamin K production, the utilisation of food, the balance of our digestion, and the inhibition of harmful micro-organisms.
Those who are born by caesarean section have to wait for their typical gut flora to develop during the feeding and, unfortunately, there is a greater chance of developing lactose intolerance. On the other hand, those born vaginally have the mother’s current microbiome. Breastfeeding develops the gut flora even more, but there are already formulas that help to develop an age-appropriate, i.e. infant-specific, healthy microbiome.
To summarise: after an adult diagnosis of lactose intolerance, before starting vitamin supplementation, the microbiome must first be regenerated to ensure optimal absorption.
We need to make a plan where prebiotic preparation is done first, so that our gut flora itself starts to produce the food for the strains, to strengthen the beneficial inhabitants and to reduce the pathogenic strains that have been damaged by lactose. Then we can start taking probiotics and establishing a personalised vitamin supplementation.