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Am J Gastroenterol. 1994 Jun;89(6):872-7.

Milk tolerance in adults with ulcerative colitis.

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Department of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles.



There has been concern in the literature and among physicians and patients that milk intolerance may contribute to disease activity in ulcerative colitis. We sought to define whether patients with ulcerative colitis have problems with milk tolerance.


1) A questionnaire was administered to a group of gastroenterologists. 2) Consecutive unselected ulcerative colitis patients were administered a questionnaire regarding issues concerning their ingestion and tolerance of milk products. 3) Patients, and age- and ethnically matched controls, underwent lactose hydrogen breath testing at a 50-g dose, and if intolerant, returned for testing at a 12.5-g dose.


Eighty percent of responding physicians stated that they recommend avoidance of milk products at some time to their patients. Thirteen of 29 (44%) ulcerative colitis patients were lactose intolerant compared with five of 14 (36%) controls (p = 0.57). Of 11 subjects returning for the 12.5-g test dose, only three (28%) were intolerant. Of 10 ulcerative colitis patients tested during a flare, only two (20%) were intolerant. Nineteen of 28 (66%) patients reduced or eliminated milk products from their diet, but only 10 (45%) of these patients were lactose intolerant. The discordance rate for predicting lactose tolerance status among patients was 35%. By logistic regression analysis, age (p = 0.04) and ethnicity (p = 0.006) were the only variables that were predictive of an abnormal lactose hydrogen breath test.


There are common misperceptions among physicians and patients about lactose intolerance in ulcerative colitis. Lactose intolerance in patients with ulcerative colitis is dependent on their age and ethnicity and not any particular aspects of their disease. The proscription of milk products during flares of disease by many physicians is not supported by this study.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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