In a report published on September 5th, the Committee on Nutrition for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended against eliminating dairy products as the primary treatment for lactose intolerance. What is their reason for projecting this contradictory news? According to committee member Dr. Melvin B. Heyman, non-dairy kids risk insufficient calcium in their diets.
The AAP suggests slowly introducing dairy foods into a sensitive child’s diet to determine their level of tolerance. Unfortunately, the AAP fails to note one important issue. Unlike allergies, food intolerances are rarely outgrown. In fact, lactose intolerance typically worsens with age.
Lactose intolerance is caused by a shortage of lactase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down the milk sugar otherwise known as lactose. The unabsorbed lactose passes into the colon where it may cause a host of gastrointestinal symptoms.
Innately we are born with a certain level of lactase to help us digest and utilize breast milk during the initial stages of development. In theory, since our bodies no longer need to digest milk past infancy there is a natural tendency for lactase to deplete over time. This is why so many people gradually develop lactose intolerance during their lifetime. For those children who are unfortunate enough to experience lactose intolerance at an early age, there is a good likelihood that it will become more severe as they grow older.
With all of the messages from pediatric organizations about beginning healthy habits at a young age, it seems rather surprising that they would recommend instilling eating behaviors in children that they will likely have great difficulty with in the future. A lactose intolerant child who is able to tolerate one glass of milk per day now, may not be able to tolerate any milk 5 or 10 years from now. Doesn’t it make more sense to help children create a balanced diet that they can maintain for a lifetime? Particularly when there is an abundance of non-dairy foods rich in calcium.
Many resources, such as the ‘Health Info’ available on www.GoDairyFree.org, provide a wealth of information on calcium rich foods, how to replace the dairy in your diet, and the keys to building strong bones. Go Dairy Free offers an extensive food-calcium chart, data on thousands of non-dairy foods, and articles on related topics of interest.
Approximately 70% of the world’s population suffers from a lactase deficiency. In the U.S. alone it is estimated that 30 to 50 million people are lactose intolerant. Due to this widespread prevalence, there are numerous options available for both children and adults who choose a non-dairy lifestyle. With so many fresh foods available year round and a rapidly growing number of calcium fortified milk alternatives, why should anyone suffer with the symptoms of lactose intolerance?