Q. Doesn't there have to be some type of LI measurement degree scale so that I know just how intolerant I am?
You would think so, wouldn't you?
But, as far as I can tell, you would be wrong. This bothers me too, but in all my research I have never come across any discussion of a scale of degrees of LI. In all the medical journal articles I have read, a simple threshold is used. Anybody who goes over that threshold is considered to be LI. The amount over the threshold is never considered. In fact, I have seen it stated that there is no correlation, although I do not know what the justification for this statement is.
In reality, symptoms are based on so many other factors than just the amount of lactase one produces that it would indeed be very difficult to make more definitive statements, but I would like to see some research done to clarify this point. You might also want to take a look at my Lactase page in the LI Basics section of my web site for more on why symptoms may vary so greatly.
Q. I think that I might be lactose intolerant. What type of doctor should I see to confirm if I am or not?
That really depends on your situation. Most family doctors can send you to a clinic for a test. However, some will prefer to send you to a specialist gastroenterologist. That's because many of the symptoms of LI are also symptoms of some much more serious problems and they want to eliminate them as possibilities first. Then you'll get sent to a clinic for a test. (Or to a hospital or whoever does it in your area.)
So you probably should just start at your regular doctor. However, if you just want to see one doctor and don't need to get a referral for insurance or HMO reasons, see a gastroenterologist.
Q. I have two vegan friends who eat no milk products, and they both have VERY strong feelings that the American Dairy Association is spitting out propaganda by telling us that we need to drink so much milk. I have been brought up drinking skim milk at every meal, and feeling healthy and happy about it - so my gut reaction is that milk IS good for you. What do you think?
The odd answer is that you are both right.
Yes, the milk industry has always been a propagandist for milk. Why should this surprise anyone? That's its job.
And vegans can live perfectly healthy lives without ever touching a milk product. That's their job.
So, everybody is missing the real issue. Is milk good for you, personally? Of course it is. It has large amounts of lots of nutrients, and in a form that most people find preferable to the alternatives. Whole milk does have a large amount of fat, true, but since you drink skim milk, that's not a problem. There are people who believe that milk does awful things to you, but I see no widespread evidence of any of these ills in the general public.
My bottom line has always been that if you want to drink milk -- or use milk products -- you should go ahead and do so. As long as you do so moderately and in the proverbial balanced diet, you'll be just fine. And if you don't ever want to use milk, then there is absolutely no need to. You can get every nutrient from other sources, and as long as you do so moderately and in the proverbial balanced diet, you'll be just fine.
There. Feel better now?