Lactose Intolerance in Cancer Patients

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Jan 13, 2013

Lactose Intolerance in Cancer Patients

What it is ?

Lactose intolerance occurs when your body cannot digest or absorb a milk sugar called lactose. Lactose is in milk products such as cheese, ice cream, and pudding. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can be mild or severe and may include gas, cramps, and diarrhea. These symptoms may last for weeks or even months after treatment ends. Sometimes, lactose intolerance is a life-long problem.

Why it happens ?

Lactose intolerance can be caused by radiation therapy to the abdomen or pelvis or other treatments that affect the digestive system, such as surgery or antibiotics.

Ways to manage with food

    * Prepare your own low-lactose or lactose-free foods. You can find a sample recipe on the next page.
    * Choose lactose-free or low-lactose milk products. Most grocery stores have products (such as milk and ice cream) labeled “lactose-free” or “low-lactose.”
    * Try products made with soy or rice (such as soy or rice milk and ice cream). These products do not have any lactose. People with certain types of cancer may not be able to eat soy products. So, ask your dietitian if soy is safe for you to add to your diet.
    * Choose milk products that are low in lactose. Hard cheeses (such as cheddar) and yogurt are less likely to cause problems.

Other ways to manage

    * Talk with a dietitian. He or she can help you choose foods that are low in lactose.
    * Talk with your doctor. He or she may suggest medicine to help with lactose intolerance. These include lactase tablets. Lactase is a substance that breaks down lactose.

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