Dr. Zorba Paster: Handling lactose intolerance

2014-01-02T07:15:00Z Dr. Zorba Paster: Handling lactose intoleranceDr. ZORBA PASTER | family physician, Dean Health madison.com

Dear Doctor Z: On your radio show, you told the parent of an adopted Chinese toddler that if the child wasn’t gaining weight she should drink more whole milk. You are wrong. This is not advisable.

Well over 90 percent of Asians are lactose intolerant. Give them milk and they bloat up like a balloon. You are setting this family up for a miserable time.

What is good for malnourished Europeans is not good for those with Asian ancestry. Please correct your awful advice. — Concerned Taiwanese

Dear Concerned: You’re wrong about that child — most toddlers can digest milk. Parents usually know the ones who can’t because the kids tell you so. If you’ve had a colicky baby, you know what I mean.

Plant-based milk such as soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk and oat milk are excellent well-tolerated substitutes for children who can’t drink the stuff from the cow. There’s even hemp milk. (Hmmm, wonder if that’s legal in our state?)

You’re right about adults, though. Nearly half the adults of the world, mostly in Asia and Africa, lose the ability that kids have to tolerate lactose. But not all dairy products are the same.

First off, milk and ice cream tend to be the worst offenders, with cheese being the least likely to cause issues. Yogurt, which is made from the natural “good” bacteria lactobacillus, is often well-tolerated. That’s probably why yogurt is much more common for adults to consume throughout the world than milk.

Then there’s the quantity issue. Some people start to bloat after they drink a glass or two of milk, while others don’t tolerate even a spoonful in their coffee.

My suggestion if you’re dairy intolerant is to remove all dairy from your diet and see what happens. Wait a week or so and then slowly introduce dairy back into your diet. Start with some Cheddar cheese, then move on to a small container of yogurt. If you tolerate that, see if you can eat ice cream.

My dad was in the ice cream business for decades and the company he worked for, Bresler Ice Cream in Chicago, had the slogan: “One of the good things in life.” I think they were spot on.

Dear Doc: I have to tell you a story your readers might enjoy. My mom remarried a very nice man who I really like. I’m so happy that she’s happy.

But there was a problem. Every time we had a family gathering, he started to sneeze. Not just the occasional “ca-choo,” but about two dozen at a time.

We thought it might be an allergy to our dog and cat, but it happened at my brother’s house, too. They don’t have animals and his wife keeps the home obsessively clean.

Finally, one day last winter, it stopped and didn’t return until the following spring when my snowbird Aunt Barbara returned from Florida. Aha, we said, he’s allergic to her.

And guess what? We were right. But it wasn’t her, it was the hair spray she used. When she tried a different brand, he stopped sneezing. Can you tell me why? — Jessica from Madison

Dear Jessica: Clearly, it was something in the hair spray — most likely the perfume in the spray — that was setting him up. If you can smell it, you can be allergic to it.

This is a problem in big cities like Chicago, where people share small spaces such as elevators with all sorts of hair spray, perfume and men’s cologne. Have you ever noticed how some people douse themselves with it? In my office, I have noticed that teenage boys seem to bathe in the stuff. Stay well.

This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or a diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about your concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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