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Monday, April 12, 2010

Report From the LI Conference, part 21

We're in the final stretch of the conference, the Tuesday morning presentations, all of which were devoted to addressing the question "What Strategies Are Effective in Managing Individuals With Diagnosed Lactose Intolerance?"

To be honest, we didn't get much of an answer from the first presenter, although he covered some issues I wasn't familiar with, issues that touch on the answer tangentially.

Prebiotics and Lactose Intolerance
David S. Newburg, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School
Program in Glycobiology, Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
Massachusetts General Hospital

Prebiotics are any food component that promotes beneficial bacterial growth. I've covered them before, in Prebiotics and Probiotics, where I quoted a fuller definition:

Prebiotics ("before life") are nondigestible or fiber components of foods, usually complex carbohydrates that beneficially affect the host by stimulating the growth of intestinal bacteria. Certain bacteria prefer a particular prebiotic to use as a source of energy.

Lactose itself can be considered a prebiotic, because the changes in the bacteria that live in your colon from the types that ferment lactose and produce gas to the types that digest lactose and are symptom-free is certainly a beneficial change. If you read me regularly you know that the change usually requires both time and persistence. By having dairy in your diet regularly you can promote the beneficial bacteria. Or you can try taking probiotics - foods or medications that contain the good bacteria - and have them colonize your large intestine.

Why do you need to spend so much time on this? Dr. Newburg said that just introducing a new species of bacteria doesn't make a lasting change. Unless you keep reinforcing the switchover by constant application, your bacteria, known as your intestinal flora, go back to the way they were in a few days or weeks.

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