What does lactose intolerance have to do with Inflammatory Bowel Disease? For those of you who don’t suffer from it, maybe nothing. However, for anyone dealing with both issues at the same time it can prove quite challenging.
Lactose intolerance is not the same thing as being allergic to milk. Lactose intolerance is actually a problem in the digestive tract caused by too little production of the enzyme lactase. The enzyme lactase is responsible for breaking down milk sugars and with out it symptoms can range from mild to quite severe. Those symptoms can include: intestinal cramps, bloating, nausea, gas and diarrhea.
This issue can be doubly hard for someone dealing with IBD which can cause a lot of these kinds of symptoms as well. In fact, one form of lactose intolerance can even be caused by IBD and celiac disease. This is thought to be due to the damage these diseases can do to the intestinal lining. The intestines are the source of the production of lactase and when damaged may no longer be able to produce enough of the enzyme.
If you have IBD and have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance you may feel like everything you eat upsets your stomach Some people can avoid the symptoms of lactose intolerance by taking a supplement containing lactase prior to ingesting foods that contain dairy products. Others do well as long as they limit the amount of dairy they eat at one time. Many people with lactose intolerance can still eat fermented dairy products like yogurt because they are more easily digested. Unfortunately there are also some people who are unable to ingest any lactose at all without causing symptoms.
If you are one of the unlucky ones be sure to read labels and look for hidden lactose in your foods. Lactose can be disguised on food labels as: milk powder, milk solids, whey, and curds among others. Be sure to check out the fillers in your prescription medications if you are especially sensitive.
Remember to add alternate sources of calcium into your diet such as soy milk, fortified orange juice, lactose free dairy products and some green leafy vegetables. These can help up your calcium intake. If you are having a hard time getting the RDA of calcium with your diet consult your physician about whether a supplement might be appropriate for you.
The combination of lactose intolerance and IBD is rough but with the proper care symptoms can be limited or perhaps even avoided all together!
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.