No More Lactose Intolerance?
Q: I've been lactose intolerant since I was a kid, so I always take
lactase supplements before indulging in anything dairy. The other day, I forgot
to take one before having a piece of ice cream cake at my daughter's birthday
party and I felt perfectly fine afterwards! Could I have outgrown it?
Dr. Donnica: True lactose intolerance is the inherited inability or decreased
ability to digest the milk sugar lactose. It's unlikely that one could truly
"outgrow" that. In fact, most people produce a decreased amount of
lactase (the enzyme that digests lactose) after age two and the condition is more
likely to appear as people get older. It is possible that you may never have been
lactose intolerant in the first place. Misdiagnoses often occur after a childhood
gastrointestinal infection with diarrhea and other mimicking symptoms; it is also
possible for various viral infections to produce a transient or temporary lactose
There's no harm in experimenting by eating dairy foods and seeing how you
react. Common symptoms include nausea, cramps, bloating, gas, and diarrhea, which
begin about 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking foods containing lactose.
The severity of symptoms varies depending on the amount of lactose you can tolerate.
To find out for certain, lactose tolerance testing is available. This is a series
of three tests: the lactose tolerance test (a series of blood tests over 2 hours);
the hydrogen breath test; and the stool acidity test. Who knows, you may be eating
ice cream worry-free in no time!
Created: 2/7/2006  - Donnica Moore, M.D.