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Lactose Intolerance in New Jersey

Lactose intolerance is common in adults and children of all ages. The Digestive Health & Nutrition Center has two convenient locations in Lawrenceville and Princeton, New Jersey where you can receive the exceptional care you deserve.  Angela Merlo, MD is an experienced Gastroenterologist with particular expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of lactose intolerance in adults and children.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Individuals with lactose intolerance are not able to digest and absorb lactose, the predominant sugar in cow’s milk and dairy products. Lactose intolerance is caused by low levels of the intestinal digestive enzyme lactase that is responsible for the digestion of lactose into an absorbable form. Deficiency of lactase can be genetically determined or the result of injury to the lining of the small intestine from inflammation, infection or Celiac disease.  Unabsorbed lactose passes into the colon where it is converted to gas and other products by bacteria that normally live in the colon.  Symptoms are gas, bloating, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Complete lack of lactase at birth is very rare. More commonly, the amount of lactase enzyme produced decreases with age. In some people the decrease happens sooner than in others. Lactose intolerance is much more common in Americans of African, Asian or Hispanic descent than in individuals of European descent.

What are the Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance?

There is considerable variability of symptoms in affected individuals. Symptoms vary with:

  • the severity of the disorder
  • the amount of lactose consumed
  • the speed of passage into the colon where bacterial action occurs
  • the presence of other foods consumed with the lactose that may affect motility and absorption

Also, individuals vary in sensitivity to the gases and other byproducts of bacterial activity.  Some people experience symptoms within an hour after consuming dairy products. Others have a continual low level of symptoms. The most common symptoms are:

  • excessive gas
  • bloating
  • abdominal pain or cramps
  • diarrhea
  • nausea and occasional vomiting

Accurate diagnosis is important as other digestive disorders produce similar symptoms. For example, patients with Giardia infection or individuals with Celiac disease have symptoms of lactose intolerance but require different treatments for cure.

How is Lactose Intolerance Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is crucial to obtaining relief. The most sensitive and specific test is the breath hydrogen test that is readily available at the Digestive Health & Nutrition Center. Dr. Merlo is expert at performing the test and interpreting the results.  This test is non-invasive and is ideal for adults as well as children capable of blowing into a breath sample collection bag. Dr. Merlo will also be certain that you do not have any other disorders that may be triggering symptoms. Dr. Merlo does not want you to restrict your diet unnecessarily if lactose is not the culprit.

Treatment for Lactose Intolerance

There are no treatments currently available to help the body produce more lactase. But there are lactase dietary supplements to take when eating dairy and a wide array of substitutes that are lactose-free. Some products commonly thought to contain lactose in fact do not. Dr. Merlo will address your concerns and provide detailed instructions on proper diet to help you maintain proper nutrition and enjoyment of life.

If you live have symptoms of lactose intolerance or want to confirm the diagnosis contact (LINK) the Digestive Health & Nutrition Center in Lawrenceville or Princeton, New Jersey today to set up an appointment with Dr. Merlo.