Monday, February 4, 2008

Is There a Link Between Lactose Intolerance and Back Pain?

If you're familiar with lactose intolerance, you know that this hereditary deficiency in the enzymes that enable the body to digest the lactose sugars in dairy products commonly results in flatulence, diarrhea, and bloating.

In a small number of the lactose intolerant, however, particularly among lactose intolerant children between the ages of 3 and 10 in China and Japan, the most common symptom is abdominal pain that may be referred by the central nervous sytem to the back.

Otherwise, lactose intolerance may be related to back pain in a different way, through osteoporosis.

Researchers at Purdue have found that girls as young as 10 to 13 who cannot tolerate milk already have mineral deficiencies in their bones. Over the course of a lifetime, if other calcium-rich foods are not eaten regularly, demineralization can result in microscopic fractures in the verterbrae that cause persistent, usually mild, back pain.

Lactose intolerance is also a factor in back pain in men who receive hormone therapy for prostate cancer. Men who are giving feminizing hormones have much the same risk for osteroporosis as women of the same age.

But lactose intolerance is a significant risk factor for fractures of the lumbar spine for anyone over 50, including, according to Drs. Karry Jackson and Dennis Savaiano of Purdue University, 69 per cent of women who are lactose intolerant. Dairy products providing nearly three-fourths of the calcium in a Western diet, anyone who has not made adjustments to get enough of the mineral is at risk for lower back pain and associated problems.

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