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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stomach Gas? Not From Lactose.

I thought The Independent was supposed to be one of Britain's better papers. Apparently the dread and mysterious brain illness that affects everyone who writes about health and nutrition in the UK has infiltrated even the highest levels of journalism. And medicine.

Dr. Fred Kavalier, a real live experienced geneticist, answers the inquiries in the paper's A Question of Health column.

Last summer I developed pain and discomfort just below the rib-cage and started producing large amounts of stomach gas... Nine months on the symptoms are still there. My GP seems baffled. Any suggestions on what is wrong and how to cure it?

You could be lactose intolerant. Lactose is the natural sugar that is present in milk products. People who are lactose intolerant cannot digest it because they are lacking an enzyme called lactase, which breaks lactose down into glucose and galactose. Undigested lactose ferments in the stomach, causing a build-up of gas.

It's hard to translate medical terminology and specialist jargon for the public. Sometimes the temptation to make things simpler than they ought to be is irresistible.

But lactose ferments in the stomach? Really? You think anybody would be confused if you said, correctly, large intestine instead? Or colon. Either one will do. Most people have heard the words before.

Stomach is flat wrong. True stomach gas will produce heartburn and comes from an entirely different set of foods and ailments than lactose intolerance, and must be attacked with different medications.

Confusion is already ripe in the world. Why add more?

Or don't you really know the different, Dr. Fred?

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