Since you mention your dairy allergy specifically, let's focus on that. Dairy products are rich in calcium and vitamin D. Your body needs calcium for bone health, proper muscle function and nerve transmission. Vitamin D plays a role in maintaining bone and heart health and cognitive function, and it helps the body use calcium effectively. Since you are allergic to dairy products, you need to get your calcium and vitamin D from other sources. For example, orange juice fortified with calcium, sardines, tofu, salmon, spinach and other leafy greens, broccoli and fortified cereals are all excellent sources of calcium. Fish, egg yolks and fortified orange juice and cereals are good alternative sources of vitamin D. Whenever possible, it is better to get your nutrients from different foods rather than supplements, since the nutrients are absorbed better from food.
However, since you may not be able to eat the foods listed above due to your other allergies, you might have to resort to taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to meet your nutritional needs. Calcium supplements are best taken with food to enhance absorption and to minimize the chance of stomach upset. Try taking 500 milligrams twice a day; amounts greater than 500 milligrams taken together are not absorbed as well. Take 1,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily and get about 20 minutes of sun exposure a day (always use sunscreen) to meet your vitamin D requirements. And talk to your doctor or nutritionist for information about optimizing your health given your other allergies.
For more information on diary and other food allergies, visit mountnittany.org.
This article was originally posted in the May 2012 issue of State College Magazine.