Is there any benefit to being medically diagnosed as lactose intolerant?
December 8, 2014 7:36 PM   Subscribe

My child recently (in the last three weeks or so) has been complaining of stomach aches and I think they are correlated with dairy. I am more than fine trying an elimination diet by avoiding dairy for a time and reintroducing it. But, I was wondering if there is any reason I am not thinking about to see a doctor. Is there any benefit to having a lactose intolerant diagnosis? Is there anything I should be considering for my daughter? I know of some of the tests you can take but should we bother?

I discovered (self-diagnosis) a few years ago that I am lactose intolerant. I cannot eat milk, soft cheese, or yogurt without extreme gastric distress. Occasionally, I'll take a lactaid to eat something with dairy and can tolerate it in small doses. It is pretty clear to me that this is an issue I have, but did not develop until my 30s and it does not impede my life so I have never bothered to see a doctor. But should I for my child?
posted by turtlefu to Health & Fitness (19 answers total)
I would just in case something else is going on with your child. You don't want to miss a legit medical issue. A younger child may not be able to articulate their aches as accurately as you can to yourself.
posted by Kalmya at 7:46 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The number one thing with kids is accommodation: just making sure people remember and don't feed your kid anything that will cause them distress. In my anecdotal experience, people are 100% accepting and accommodating of being told our kid is lactose intolerant without any shred of formal supporting paperwork. As long as you let your kid's school/daycare/babysitter/friends' parents know as needed, you've pretty much covered those bases. It's probably worthwhile to introduce what you have discovered to your family pediatrician, so they can take it into account as it might affect future diagnoses, though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:49 PM on December 8, 2014

I'm thinking It could be useful when it comes to accomodation for school lunches.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:52 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you could have the kid not any dairy for a day or two and if the tummy still hurts then it's something else.

I used to get really bad gas pains as a kid that felt like "stomach pain". I only realized what they were as an adult. It didn't occur to anyone else either. That's just another thing to consider.
posted by bleep at 8:09 PM on December 8, 2014

Your doctor might notice something you're entirely too used to to notice so I would say, take her/him to the doc.
posted by discopolo at 8:10 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is always good to have a paper trail so to speak when it comes to medical stuff. Getting this into her record now makes it easier to dialogue with the doctor when other symptoms come up.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:13 PM on December 8, 2014

Not that it necessarily matters but I always heard that children have dairy (or just milk) allergy while adults have lactose intolerance. Speaking as someone with lactose intolerance, I knew I would have it because my mom did, but I never had a problem until my teens.
posted by irisclara at 8:24 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree that there are always benefits to having a paper trail. As for OP being intolerant, all adults to a greater or lesser degree become intolerant at some stage.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:26 PM on December 8, 2014

What if it's not caused by dairy? When it comes to medical issues, I think the question is "Why not go to the doctor?" rather than "Why go to the doctor?" -- especially if you have health insurance and this won't create a huge financial burden.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:35 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd vote on the side for a visit to the doctor and for letting him figure out what's going on without your "lactose intolerant" input, not because you're necessarily all wrong, but because it could be something else, like an ulcer, and the assumption of lactose intolerance could delay the right diagnosis.

My friend's 8-year-old daughter had a stomach ulcer which wasn't diagnosed until she vomited up blood. She'd been complaining of tummy aches but the cause had been attributed to school stress; of course, that could have been the cause of the ulcer, but still it would have been nice to get the diagnosis before the problem became so serious.

GERD and appendicitis are not uncommon in children, either.

Just my thoughts. Hope she feels better soon.

For my own lactose intolerance, I find that lactose-free milk has made a big difference.
posted by aryma at 9:08 PM on December 8, 2014

As someone with tummy problems her whole life, go to the doctor. Especially with this pain being recent, it could be as mentioned above, an ulcer or GERD that needs treatment. (For example many ulcers are caused by H. Pylori bacteria.) Milk can make acid pains worse as your body needs more acid to break it down, so it could just be that milk is heightening some other pain and not the root problem.

Also, my reading of this as "tummy aches" doesn't directly point to lactose intolerance unless there's associated gastric issues like bloating, indigestion, or the like, as that's really what's common with lactose intolerance.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:20 PM on December 8, 2014

Nthing the above advice to seek formal medical advice, for reasons.

As far as knowing for sure that you are lctose intolerant.... one place it bit me unexpectedly was getting insurance coverage for an inhaler after a lung infection when the cheaper option was bulked up with lactose. Yeah that worked out about as well as you might think.
posted by mce at 9:56 PM on December 8, 2014

I was formally diagnosed with lactose intolerance as a young child-- I think I was 4 or 5. Before I was diagnosed I was in pretty much constant gastric discomfort, since I was served milk with every meal. It was awful and I was so happy to switch to lactose free milk. The diagnosis process was unpleasant-- it involved drinking an orange-flavored drink and breathing into a tube at regular intervals. I vaguely remember being bored and uncomfortable at the hospital.

I am not (and never was) allergic to dairy. It's totally possible for kids to be lactose intolerant, and it's much more likely if you are not Northern European.

Many schools, camps, etc. will offer lactose-free milk but only to kids who have a diagnosed intolerance.
posted by charmcityblues at 10:02 PM on December 8, 2014

I avoided lactose for years, potentially compromising my calcium intake as a young adult. After several years, I found out I actually had an autoimmune disease and that it was simply that dairy made it worse. Please see a doctor. I spent many nights in pain, thinking I must have had dairy, when that wasn't what had happened at all. Starting in the road to diagnosis earlier would have helped in many ways.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:15 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can grow out of lactose intolerance, and seeing a Doctor can determine

a)that the child actually has intolerance
b)Whether it will be possible for said child to develop a tolerance for lactose in future.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:52 PM on December 8, 2014

You go to the doctor because it could be something else.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:58 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

My understanding is that lactose intolerance is not real common in kids. It's something that becomes much more common as we become adults. So I also vote for the doctor - just to be sure.
posted by COD at 5:37 AM on December 9, 2014

I would take her in because lactose intolerance can be a symptom of a different gastric problem. From what I understand, the cells that produce the lactase enzyme that digests lactose are on the tips of the cilia that line the small intestine, and if the gut is inflamed or irritated for other reasons, the cells can be damaged or missing so that they don't produce enough lactase. If you just treat the symptom, an underlying problem might be missed.

(I'd also never discount lactose intolerance just due to age. I was finally diagnosed in college because it became suddenly more severe and consistent then, but I had a lot of stomach problems starting in the 5th grade that, I think with hindsight, may have been due to varying levels of lactase in my gut as I slowly lost the ability to digest lactose. Had I been diagnosed earlier, I'd have felt a whole lot better.)
posted by telophase at 1:52 PM on December 9, 2014

Personally I'd take her in to make sure nothing else is going on.

Anecdotally though I was diagnosed with LI when I was 8, so it can definitely happen in kids. I'm not sure I went to the doc for a formal diagnosis. However my dad is a doctor and cut out dairy at that time and felt so much better, so it was sort of a no-brainer to try that out for my symptoms.
posted by radioamy at 4:24 PM on December 9, 2014

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