New hope for those with lactose intolerance

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New strategies exist for lactose intolerance, which should help a substantial number of people consume more dairy products.

In a national sample of 3,452 adults, one out of eight — or 12.3 percent — perceived themselves to be lactose intolerant, according to this recent issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Besides the total number of people involved, there are misperceptions surrounding lactose intolerance, Karen Kafer, vice president of health partnerships and communications for the National Dairy Council, told those attending a lactose intolerance webinar on Tuesday.

For most people affected, dairy products can be part of a healthy diet, pointed out Roberta Duyff, a nationally recognized food and nutrition consultant. “Most people with lactose intolerance can enjoy three servings of dairy every day without unpleasant GI (or gastrointestinal) symptoms,” she said.

She cited the following statement from Melvin Heyman, a physician with the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“Treatment of lactose intolerance by elimination of milk and other dairy products is not usually necessary given new approaches to lactose intolerance…”

Among those new approaches:

  • Include milk with other foods in a meal. “Mixing milk with other foods, such as soups and cereals, will ease digestion,” Duyff said.
  • Consume live-culture yogurts.
  • Choose natural cheese with minimum amounts of lactose.
  • Try milk products with reduced lactose or zero lactose.
  • Ease into it if you haven’t been consuming dairy. One of the speakers at Tuesday’s webinar, Dr. Robert Heaney, professor of medicine at Creighton University, suggested starting off with half a serving of dairy with each meal. “It may take two or three weeks for the gut to adapt and build up tolerance,” he said. “Just stick with it and you will get there quicker than you realize.”

Dr. Heaney emphasized the nutritional advantages of dairy products.

“Milk is more than calcium,” he said. “It contains a whole host of other things that will improve your diet quality substantially.”

For instance, milk contains three of the nutrients — calcium, vitamin D and potassium — that are often under-consumed by people, given the nature of today’s diets and eating habits. If people cut dairy products out of their diets, they will get even less of these essential nutrients.   

Dairy is also a source of high-quality protein, Dr. Heaney said. Indeed, dairy tops the list for having the best nutrient value for calories consumed, he said.

Tuesday’s webinar was jointly sponsored by the National Dairy Council and Creighton University Health Sciences Continuing Education. The webinar was intended for physicians, dietitians and other health professionals.

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Philip Lewis    
Salem, NY  |  August, 03, 2011 at 09:56 AM

"New hope ..."? This reads more like SOS. There's nothing new here.

Laurie A. Kyle, BNS    
Elkhorn, Wisconsin  |  August, 03, 2011 at 09:24 PM

Most people are really not lactose intolerant and dairy can be ingested by most people. It is so important that dairy be in a healthy eating plan by all as it is the only food that provides calcium, vitamin D and potassium. After a rigorous workout there is no other food that can help to repair muscles. It is imperative that we eat a healthy diet, sleep a proper amount, drink lots of water, and maintain healthy relationships in order for our body to be the best it can be! Healthy attitudes can help in maintaining the so-called lactose intolerance problem! Maybe some consumers do really like having the "SOS" attitude, but it certainly doesn't seem that one can get very far in life portraying this kind of attitude! :)

Chuck Curtiss    
Ballston Spa, New York  |  August, 03, 2011 at 01:47 PM

Drinking clean safe raw milk is a great way to get your daily 3-a-day. We have a license to sell raw milk at our farm and we have SEVERAL customers who were told they are lactose intolerant by their physicians, but can drink raw milk with no problems whatsoever.

Laurie A. Kyle, BNS    
Elkhorn, Wisconsin  |  August, 03, 2011 at 09:33 PM

I am a dairy producer and nutritionist and there is no scientific information that shows us raw milk is a good idea. Milk is best when pastuerized and homogenized at a milk plant. Your milk might be clean, but most milk is not clean until it has the two processes completed at a milk plant that has trained employees that follow protocols for this precious product. There isn't a physician in the world that would say raw milk is better for a consumer over pastuerized and homogenized milk. This is purely a marketing tactic by raw milk advocates because they want to make the profit and not follow regulations that are necessary to keep the product safe and wholesome for all consumers.

Dawn Sills    
North Little Rock, AR  |  August, 03, 2011 at 10:43 PM

Good information on the nutritional value of dairy products. Please do remember to be somewhat more specific in your seminars and newletters by adding that the tolerance level of each individual must be considered. As one of the early patients in the studies at Yale in the late 60's I really found that knowing my diagnosis and adhering to a very strict diet my life may have been saved. Testing revealed that my baseline for tolerance of lactose was flat and prior to adhering to a strict diet I had lost a lot of weight and had from frequent bouts of diaherra, vomiting and painful bloating. Now at some 30 years after my diagnosis and age 72 I weigh a weight of 131 lbs which is a comfortable weight for my 5 feet 7 1/2 inches in height while continuing to adhere to my basically lactose free diet and taking supplements in order to make up for those missing from eating dairy products. I also take lactase capsules when I take prescription medications containing lactose as a filler and whenever I think I may have accidentally eaten something containing any dairy. Imfortunately, I occasionally have some discomfort when I mistakenly eat something containing dairy and have not been aware enough to take lactase. I do so hope Dr. Heaney and others will consider not be quite so cavalier about the lactose intolerance. Thank you, Dawn Sills

linda gonzalez    
Daytona Beach, FL  |  August, 04, 2011 at 11:18 AM

Growing up on a dairy farm, I loved and ate all dairy foods. Upon menopause, I developed severe and constant diarrhea. After doing all the necesary tests and finding nothing, the MD suggested restricting all dairy for a month, then slowly re-introducing it into my diet to see what happened. His theory was LI. Sure enough, he was right. After much research on my own, I found that yogurt and aged cheeses could be tolerated because of the various bacillus they contain. Another thought (and my theory), at the time I drank large quantities of TAB... The LI improved when I switched to smaller amounts of Diet coke.

new york, ny  |  August, 12, 2011 at 09:39 AM

As new born baby begins nursing, the first thing he receives is this lower-fat foremilk, which quenches his thirst. Baby's nursing triggers the mother's milk ejection reflex, which squeezes milk and the sticking fat cells from the milk-making cells into the ducts. This higher-fat hindmilk mixes with the high-lactose foremilk and baby receives the perfect food, with fat calories for growth and lactose for energy and brain development. However, when milk production is too high, baby may fill up on the foremilk and then have difficulty digesting all the lactose that is not balanced by fat. This is known as foremilk/hindmilk imbalance or oversupply...

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