Lactose intolerance

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Lactose intolerance is when the body can't absorb the sugar (lactose) contained in milk and other dairy products. Both antibiotics and chemotherapy can cause lactose intolerance in some individuals. The part of children's intestines that breaks down lactose stops functioning properly, resulting in gas, abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. If your child develops this problem, it is important to talk to a nutritionist to learn about low-lactose diets and alternate sources of protein. The following are suggestions for parents of lactose-intolerant children:

• Adding enzyme tablets or drops to dairy products makes them digestible for some children. Some of these are over-the-counter additives, while others require a prescription. Discuss these additives with the oncologist before using them.

• Replace milk with cheese, nonfat yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream.

• Replace milk with lactose-free sliced cheese and milk products, acidophilus milk, or soymilk. These are easier to digest and come in a variety of flavors.

• Always be sure that products are pasteurized, not raw.

• A new product called Vitamite 100 is a non-soy, lactose-free milk replacement. Call (800) 443-3930 to order.

• Remember that milk is a common ingredient in other foods, even bread. Read ingredient lists carefully.

• If no dairy products are tolerated, supply calcium by serving canned salmon, sardines, or calcium-fortified fruit juices. Consult your childs oncologist and nutritionist about calcium supplements. Many children like the taste of chewy calcium supplements called Viactive. These are available at most drug stores.

Diet and Nutrition and Eating Hints are free booklets from the National Cancer Institute, (800) 422-6237 (800-4-CANCER). Both contain recipes and suggestions for lactose-restricted diets.

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