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ALLERGY HOTLINE COLUMNS
LI Symptoms – Remedies


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Once again, the symptoms of lactose Intolerance (LI) are diarrhea, flatulence, borborygmi (the noisy rumbling of air moving through the intestines), cramps, and bloating. You get them because undigested lactose does two things, both bad: it pulls excess water into your intestines and it gets fermented by the bacteria in your colon, creating huge amounts of gas. The combination of water and gas and stool leads to the five symptoms I already mentioned. And basically no others. If you are getting any other symptoms, it is almost certain that they have a different cause than LI. (One exception: children, though normally not adults, can have vomiting as a symptom.)

The best way to avoid suffering these symptoms is a lactase pill, a substitute for the lactose-digesting enzyme that your body lacks. Iíve already talked about lactase, so letís take a look at other ways of getting symptom relief.

First, what wonít work. This is almost everything youíd normally think of to try on the shelves of your average drugstore or health food store.

Heartburn controllers like Pepcid or Axid work on acid in the stomach. This is the wrong end of the alimentary canal. LI is totally an intestinal problem.

Antigas medicines like Tums wonít do anything to the bacteria that are the source of the problem. Antiflatulence pills have the same limitation, although there is one possible ray of hope. Some studies suggest that pills with simethicone as an active ingredient, like Phazyme or Di-Gel, work to break down the large gas bubbles into smaller ones that can work their way through the system more quickly and easily. Youíll still have as much gas but you may not suffer as much or as long.

Antidiarrhea medicines can actually backfire. After all, you want to get the lactose out of your body as quickly as possible. However, I well know that the process can leave your insides feelings as if theyíre been twisted and then stomped on. If you canít take it any more, try a medication with loperamide as the active ingredient, such as Imodium. One study in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found that the loperamide slowed down transit time (the time it take food to move through the digestive tract) so much that the lactase still remaining in people's bodies had more time to work, thereby reducing symptoms. The big catch: the subjects got the loperamide BEFORE getting the lactose. But loperamide can also quiet the spasming associated with diarrhea and help produce larger, better-formed stools. Itís not in any way a cure, though, merely an aid to cut down on the soreness and discomfort of continued diarrhea.

Is there anything that works after youíve swallowed the lactose? The short answer is no. You can lessen the awfulness, but as long as your colon harbors bacteria churning out gas youíll have LI symptoms after having dairy products.

Can you at least get rid of those annoying bacteria and replace them with more beneficial ones? The short answer is maybe. Iíll talk about that in LI Symptoms – Cures?.

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