Differentiation needs to be made between LACTOSE INTOLERANCE and allergy to cow’s milk proteins.  Lactose is present in moderate amounts in the diets of most Australians, intolerance is not highly prevalent in those of Caucasion background, but is more prevalent in Aboriginals, Maoris, Asians and Greeks.

The enzyme LACTASE is secreted in the intestines and promotes the digestion of the milk sugar, LACTOSE.  Therefore any damage to the intestine walls by parasitic invasion, antibiotic usage, inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease (inability to digest gluten), irritable bowel syndrome, intolerance to cow’s milk proteins, AIDS, radiation therapy or surgery on the bowel, will reduce lactase secretions.

Health conditions associated with poor LACTOSE digestion are:

  1. Infantile colic – LACTOSE malabsorption may contribute to a “fussy” child displaying symptoms of crying, abdominal pain and increased flatus; mother’s milk increases in LACTOSE content, peaking at 13 weeks.
  2. Recurrent abdominal pain in 10 to 15% of children may be caused by LACTOSE INTOLERANCE.
  3. Increased risk of osteoporosis brought about by LACTOSE maldigestion and subsequent reduction of LACTOSE intake in the diet in the form of dairy products.
  4. Severe diarrhoea, leading to malnutrition and dehydration, the diarrhoea itself can upset further the production of lactase, and so the vicious circle continues.

Dietary changes that may manage symptoms are:

  1. Avoid high LACTOSE foods and beverages ie milk products, use soya based products instead, also available are oat milk, rice milk and almond milk.
  2. Try fermented milk products such as yoghurt, cottage cheese, buttermilk, sour cream, they are usually better tolerated, as is matured cheese, however, many people will not handle these well either.
  3. Lactase preparations, liquid or tablet form, can be taken with any LACTOSE rich meal.
  4. Avoid high doses of LACTOSE foods over a short period of time and consume with other foods.  You might cope with LACTOSE exposure once every three or four days.
  5. Ensure that Calcium intake is adequate, Calcium fortified alternative milk products are available.


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