Lactose intolerance can develop at any age

November 4, 2011 1:48:49 PM PDT
After the birth of her first child, when she was in her thirties, Robin Soler got sick when she ate just about anything.

"I went to the doctor a number of times and finally I did a food elimination diet," she said.

The result? Robin was lactose intolerant.

"Lactose intolerance is a very common disorder. It's actually when a person has a deficiency in lactase, which is an enzyme that's produced in the small bowel and it breaks down the sugar in milk called lactose," said Dr. Jennifer Christie at Emory University.

The condition can develop at any age. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, abdominal bloating, gas, diarrhea and nausea. Lactase pills before eating may allow tolerance of certain foods. Avoiding milk and dairy products is ideal, but getting enough calcium and vitamin d is also important. "What we recommend is patients eat foods that are high in calcium. Then also some people may need to take a supplement of calcium/vitamin D," said Dr. Christie.

Finally, doctors say people with the condition can have a small amount of lactose in their diets, Soler says making adjustments to her diet was difficult, but she has learned what works for her.