Lactose Intolerant? Drink Milk!

If you think you’re lactose intolerant, the National Institutes of Health says, well… maybe you’re not. In a statement released yesterday, the NIH claims that lactose intolerance is nowhere near as prevalent as it’s believed and that a general misunderstanding of lactose is causing people to not get the Vitamin D and calcium they need.

“Particularly in children and adolescents, it’s very difficult for them to receive enough calcium and vitamin D if they avoid dairy completely,” said Dr. Frederick J. Suchy, professor and chief of pediatric hepatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “The same thing may hold true for adults.”

While Suchy admits that only a small portion of the world’s adult population has the ability to absorb lactose as a nutrient, that shouldn’t be mistaken for an intolerance to the sugar.

He also warns that some symptoms of true lactose intolerance — diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence — could also result from more serious gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease, and that people may be misdiagnosing themselves.

Says Dr. Marshall Wolf of Harvard Medical School:

This is not an allergic condition where if you take a little bit of milk you get sick. That’s quite rare… This is a quantitative condition and most people, even those with malabsorption, can take a certain amount of milk products without any symptoms, and there is some evidence to suggest that if you take milk products on a regular basis, you can build up your tolerance for milk.

Dr. Suchy adds that yogurt and hard cheeses, especially low-fat hard cheeses, may be more tolerable to those afflicted by lactose intolerance.

Anyone else really want a milkshake right now?

Think You’re Lactose Intolerant? Maybe Not [US News & World Report]