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 However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.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.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Answers to Questions from Readers, part 5

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?

Q. Have you heard of anyone's LI symptoms being relieved by birth control pills?

The problem is that I hear all sorts of anecdotal comments about LI, without ever being able to back them up. I have heard of women becoming LI because of pregnancy and also of women being able to drink milk for the first time while pregnant. I do not, however, know of any studies that would shed any light on the subject. But you are definitely the first to give a connection to bcp's. (However, as all but one brand of bcp's contain lactose as a filler, it's probably not surprising that few people see their symptoms disappear while on them.)

Q. Our doctor thinks my daughter has irritable bowel syndrome, but with lactose intolerance as a trigger. I'm wondering if I am giving her enough Lactaid. Do you have any thoughts on this?

While it couldn't hurt, it's not clear that it would do much to help unless you think you are still not detecting all milk products at those meals.

You might want to go in a different direction. There are numerous other triggers of irritable bowel other than milk. They include: large meals, fatty or spicy foods, carbonated beverages, and caffeine. Gas-producing foods, like beans and cabbage, can also be a problem. So can sorbital, the artificial sweetener. Even some fiber sources, including lettuce, celery, and fruits, may cause gas and bloating. If you detect a pattern of symptoms in conjunction with any of these, try removing it from her diet for a few days and see if that helps.

Q. How does heat affect lactose? Does baking alter lactose? If I see non-fat milk in a bread label, has the lactose been altered to the point that it no longer poses a problem for me?

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that heat affects lactose in any way. Lactose in pure form, in mostly pure form (whey) and as a small percentage of other milk products, is used in hundreds of foods and people seem to respond to all of them. Of course, most people do _not_ respond to small amounts of lactose, so size does matter, as they say. But you do need to take lactose into account in any food that it is in.

To know how much lactose is in various milk products, see the SuperGuide to Dairy or the Lactose Percentages pages in the Dairy Facts section of my web site.

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