The incidence of lactose malabsorption was investigated in 85 patients with ulcerative colitis and 71 patients with Crohn's disease by means of lactose tolerance tests and disaccharidase determinations in small intestinal mucosa. Eight patients with ulcerative colitis (9%) and four with Crohn's disease (6%) had lactose malabsorption. A control group displayed a similar incidence. It is concluded that lactose malabsorption is not particularly common in ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. If it is present, its aetiology seems to be unrelated to the intestinal disease.
Transitional lactose malabsorption was detected in two cases during a relapse of ulcerative colitis.
Institution of a lactose-free (or lactose-poor) diet was an important supporting measure in seven patients who were unaware of their milk intolerance, in particular in two with ileostomy. Therefore, it is recommended that a lactose tolerance test should always be performed in patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
Twenty-one patients with ulcerative colitis and nine with Crohn's disease, none of whom had lactose malabsorption, were placed on milk-free diets. A beneficial effect was noticed in five of the patients with ulcerative colitis, and in three of those with Crohn's disease. The mechanism is unknown.
Evidence is presented that milk allergy is not responsible for the beneficial effect of a lactosefree diet in patients with associated lactose malabsorption.
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