Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Temporary Lactose Intolerance - It Can Happen to You

There are three types of lactose intolerance.

Congenital lactose intolerance is extremely rare. It occurs in a very few babies who can't make lactase at all. If they aren't put on a dairy-free formula immediately, they starve to death.

Primary lactose intolerance is also called, imprecisely, adult-onset lactose intolerance. In reality it can occur any time after the age of weaning. The ability to make lactase decreases or disappears and the symptoms of lactose intolerance strike.

But there is also secondary lactose intolerance, sometimes called temporary lactose intolerance. It occurs whenever there is damage to the intestines that knocks out - temporarily or permanently - the ability to manufacture lactase. Many conditions, from surgery on the intestines, to diseases, to drugs, to long-term abuse of the system can cause it. Whether the ability to manufacture lactase comes back depends entirely on the original cause of the damage and how well the intestines heal.

I mention temporary lactose intolerance now because there's a celebrity case of it in the news.

Golfer Trevor Immelman is back to full health after losing 22 pounds in a few weeks to a parasite.

The South African lost 22 pounds after it was diagnosed he had picked up a parasite which severely affected him for three weeks, but having regained his health, Immelman found himself in fine fettle again as he posted a solid four-under-par 68 to lead the South African challenge at Quail Hollow.

The 27-year-old described how he picked up a debilitating bug a month ago, just two days before the start of the Masters.

"I started feeling really ill. I pretty much slept in the restroom. My stomach felt like it was moving around inside me," Immelman recalled.

The cure? Antibiotics, of course. And his doctor also put him on a lactose-free diet.

Why? Two possible reasons. Without knowing more about the parasite or its effects, it might be that the bug affected the intestines and the extremely delicate and sensitive lactase-making villi, tiny projections on the insides of the intestines.

And antibiotics themselves are designed to kill bacteria. It's hard to discriminate among bad bacteria and good bacteria, so the "good" bacteria that live in the large intestine and digest any lactose that comes their way also get killed when a person takes a course of antibiotics. That means that the symptoms of undigested lactose often occur. The last time I took a course of antibiotics, it was a horrible week of roiling intestines and spasming diarrhea.

Oddly, the answer for this can be milk. Or, much more specifically, yogurt with the live and active cultures that work to recolonize the intestines. Unfortunately, time is still the best healer for temporary lactose intolerance from most of its causes.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have a personal theory on secondary lactose intolerance based on about 25 years of personal experience. While in college, I received a high level of antibiotics for recurrent sinus infections before going to the UK - where I fell victim to high levels of dairy in the food. It was my first introduction to LI. I have continued to fight it ever since - but have had rather long periods where it has seemed to be dormant. (At least as long as I didn't push it too far.) I have theorized that when my gut is healthy, it can tolerate more. It seems that if I have a healthy environment, built up by probiotics, I can get away with some of my worst trigger foods in moderation. When I am in weaker periods, high doses of Lactaid are needed for every risky food venture. (I can't imagine why someone suffering from full blown LI would ever risk eating yogurt with its dairy content. It does NOT work for me at that time.)

** I have three children that fell victim to over a month's gastro-intestinal virus rotation. I think at least 2 of them have the secondary LI right now. We have purchased a refrigerated, Dairy Free, Acidophilus plus FOS, probiotic supplement, to begin using rather vigorously. (I assume there are numerous probiotic formulas that are similar to this, but the one I picked up was made by Bluebonnet.

**Tonight, I noticed that its formulation appears to be extremely close to a product called Lactagen, but the Bluebonnet supplement is MUCH MUCH cheaper. I don't know if the " product can really cure the secondary LI as they claim, but I found it fascinating that someone else was describing a process that I have lived for many years. Our cheaper supplement makes no claims for curing LI at all - but I am hoping that it will help our family.

Since I have personally had rather long periods without LI being evident, I am rather hopeful that everyone can recover. Perhaps my family has a tendency for problems like this, and I need to add a base level of the supplement to my diet as well. With my history, I am inclined to think this is a good idea.

* Sorry for the lengthy comment. I have spent too much time "searching for a cure" lately.