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Is It Really Lactose Intolerance?

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An article titled “Demystifying Lactose Intolerance” in the April 2012 issue of Today’s Dietitian is geared toward increasing the knowledge base of registered dietitians. At the same time, it has plenty of good takeaway information for anyone dealing with the condition.

As digestive ailments go, lactose intolerance is frequently misdiagnosed and misunderstood, writes registered dietitian and consultant Densie Webb. Gas, cramps, bloating and diarrhea are the hallmarks of a patient’s inability to digest the milk sugar called lactose.

But symptoms like these can mask more serious conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

Webb’s article provides references for various studies into lactose intolerance and helps “demystify” its diagnosis and treatment. Also, she interviews Robin Plotkin, a registered dietitian and nutrition communications expert.

Here are five key points from the article, although if you have time to browse it, you will find even more:

1. Avoiding any and all dairy products if you think you are lactose-intolerant can be a problem, because you might miss out on the calcium, Vitamin D and other nutrients of dairy. Consider trying small amounts of dairy, such as half a cup of milk with a meal or snack. Then see what happens. If you don't experience problems for this, gradually increase to one cup.

2. Study grocery store aisles for such things as lactose-free milk, low-lactose cheese and fortified soy, almond and rice milk products. Look for products that contain between zero and 2 grams of lactose per serving.

3. Try chocolate milk, as some studies suggest it might be better tolerated than unflavored milk.

4. Consider probiotics, but realize that the National Institutes of Health has said research is as yet insufficient to endorse probiotics for lactose digestion. Also, the effectiveness of probiotics varies widely from one product to another.

5. Colonic adaptation might work for you. The idea is to routinely ingest lactose to see if you can build your tolerance for it.

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I would give this article a D-

The title is misleading, as only one sentence in the article relates to an alternative diagnosis. Additionaly, one of the key points made is the detriments of LI - that being the loss if calcium, vitamin D, etc., yet the suggested list of methods to combat LI fails to mention the most obvious and most culinarily and digestively satisfying: take a lactase enzyme supplement when eating dairy. A vast majority of sufferers can easily enjoy dairy products by taking a simple pill. How do you write an article on LI and not mention this?

April 22, 2012 - 9:15am
(reply to Anonymous)

Thanks for making your point about lactase enzyme supplements. Often in the interest of brevity I cannot list all the symptoms, causes, diagnostic methods and treatments for diseases and conditions. But anyone diagnosed with lactose intolerance certainly should ask for a doctor's advice on supplements.

April 23, 2012 - 2:33pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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