Lactose Intolerance Not A One-Size-Fits-All Health Condition

Treatment for condition must be tailored to person’s tolerance threshold

Amin HSDAYTON, Ohio (August 8, 2016) – Those who find they can no longer tolerate lactose – a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products – may not want to throw out the ingredient from their diet just yet.

Lactose intolerance is the diagnosis given to a person who fails to produce or produces very little of the enzyme lactase, which is used to break down lactose in the small intestine. The severity of a person’s condition and the extent to which they must avoid lactose will depend on their own personal tolerance threshold, says Mansi Amin, DO, an internal medicine physician with Oakwood Primary Care.

“It depends on how much lactase a person’s body is producing,” says Dr. Amin, who practices with Premier HealthNet. “Some people can tolerate quite a bit of milk and dairy, whereas some people can’t tolerate any and they get symptoms immediately after eating or drinking anything that has lactose.”

Lactose intolerance is largely diagnosed by its symptoms, which include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, bloating and gas. However, it can be confirmed by two clinical tests such as a hydrogen breath test and a stool acidity test, both of which measure the amount of lactase present in the body.

The condition is very common – affecting 30 million Americans by the time they turn 20 years old – and can develop at any age, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Evidence shows that certain illnesses or surgeries to the small intestines may act as the catalyst for the condition, the NIH says.

“Those who have a viral gastroenteritis – or the stomach bug – may develop a temporary loss of lactase. They may become lactose intolerant for a short period of time,” Dr. Amin says. “Then, after a while, they may start producing lactase again and then can go back to eating dairy products.”

Those who suspect they may be lactose intolerant should first consult with a physician to make sure their symptoms aren’t due to another underlying health condition. Irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s Disease are both intestinal-related illnesses that share similar symptoms. 

Dr. Amin says those who know lactose intolerance is the culprit for their uncomfortable symptoms can follow these steps to make life a little easier:

Look out for labels – Lactose intolerant individuals need to learn to properly read food labels. There are many different food items that can contain lactose including frozen dinners, and even non-milk products such as beer. 

Discover your limit – A person may avoid lactose products for two weeks and discover their symptoms have gone away. At that point, try slowly reintroducing lactose products back into the diet to see how much can be tolerated. Those with low lactase levels may find they can drink up to a half cup of milk at a time. Larger amounts may cause problems.

Know what you’re losing – The lack of milk in a person’s diet can lead to a shortage of calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin and protein. The NIH says individuals need 1,000 to 1,500 mg of calcium each day. Calcium supplements with vitamin D can help as well as eating foods high in calcium such as leafy greens, oysters, sardines, canned salmon and broccoli. 

For more information on lactose intolerance or to find a Premier HealthNet provider near you, visit

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