|| DukeMedNews || Living with Lactose Intolerance

Suggested lead: Lactose intolerance may be a lot more common than most people think. Tom Britt has more.

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Milk and milk products are common in most processed foods, and most people take milk for granted. But as many as half the people in the United States have a negative reaction to the presence of lactose, the primary sugar contained in all milk products. As a matter of fact, studies seem to show that lactose intolerance is very common in Americans of African, Asian, Hispanic and Jewish descent. Gayle Chapman is a dietician clinician at Duke University Medical Center. She says lactose intolerance can show up at any time, but most often starts exhibiting itself after a baby has been weaned from its mother. Chapman says if you suspect your child is lactose intolerant, it is best to have your physician check it out.

“They may be lactose intolerant, but they also may be allergic to milk protein. And there’s more danger there because they can have very severe side effects.”

Those side effects of an allergy to milk protein can include an overall body rash along with vomiting and diarrhea. Chapman says the resulting dehydration can be deadly for an infant. I’m Tom Britt.

Chapman says milk lovers who are lactose intolerant can still enjoy some milk products, as long as they check the labels.

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“Many people will tolerate yogurt or buttermilk that has active cultures in it, because these cultures will help digest the lactose. Not everyone can tolerate them, but there’s a fair number of people who do okay.”