Lactose-Intolerant People Should Drink More Milk, Expert Says

cereal with fruit.
  • If necessary, use over-the-counter digestive aids.
  • Eat yogurts. "Yogurts are very well tolerated because they contain a lactase that helps digest lactose in the intestine."

    Lactose is a form of sugar, or carbohydrate, found in milk and dairy products. This sugar is too large to be absorbed by the intestine, and is broken down by an enzyme, lactase, produced by the body. Most adults don't produce enough lactase to completely break down the lactose. In fact, up to three-fourths of the world's population doesn't produce enough lactase.

    However, Savaiano says it is possible to train one's own digestive system to break down the lactose.

    "Our studies have shown a really amazing adaptation of the large intestine of humans," Savaiano says. "The large intestines contain bacteria that help digest lactose. By altering the diet over time, bacteria more effectively digest lactose, making milk better tolerated.

    "The bacteria are very fastidious and very adaptable. An individual who may produce excessive gas may feel uncomfortable after eating milk products. But if they adapt to small amounts of milk for a couple of weeks, at the end of that period, they are producing far less gas than they were two weeks ago from the same amount of milk, and they tolerate dairy products extremely well."

    Research studies on calcium metabolism have shown the effectiveness of this form of treatment, Savaiano says.

    "We've found that if you do controlled clinical blind trials, where people don't know what they are consuming, and you take out that placebo effect, you can give subjects a glass of milk with breakfast and another with dinner and they exhibit almost no symptoms.

    "Further, we just completed a study at Purdue last summer with a group of African-American adolescent girls who were part of a calcium diet study. On the first day of the study many complained about having to drink the milk -- they said they didn't li

  • Contact: Steve Tally
    Purdue University

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