Lactose intolerance varies among ethnic groups; some foods cause worse symptoms

October 15, 2012

Lactose intolerance varies among ethnic groups. It is less common in people of Northern and Eastern European descent and more common in people from South America, Africa and Asia.

If a person catches a stomach virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea, he may become lactose-intolerant temporarily. This is why doctors commonly recommend a milk-free diet for a few days after someone gets the “stomach flu.”

The amount of lactose in milk products varies, which is why some foods cause upset while others do not:

• 8 ounces low-fat milk: 11 grams

• 4 ounces ice cream: 6 grams

• 8 ounces yogurt: 5 grams

• 4 ounces sour cream: 4 grams

• 4 ounces cottage cheese: 3 grams

• 4 ounces whipping cream: 3 grams

• 1 ounce American cheese: 1 gram

• 1 ounce cream cheese: 1 gram

• 1 teaspoon butter: trace

Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed with a procedure called the hydrogen breath test. This test usually requires a visit to a gastroenterologist’s office, so most pediatricians and family doctors make the diagnosis by determining if a patient’s symptoms resolve when lactose is removed from the diet. This could take a week or more, because the symptoms of lactose intolerance can be intermittent and do not always occur immediately after someone ingests milk products.

Howard Bennett

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