Monday, October 10, 2011

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose Intolerance

If you are finding it challenging to figure out if you are intolerant to lactose, which is the sugar that is found in milk products, I hope our experiences might help you in your process.

Twenty years ago shortly after my father passed away, my mother began having symptoms of diarrhea. After it persisted for awhile, she went to her doctor. It was determined that most likely the problem resulted from the stress of losing her husband. However, as time went on, the annoying symptoms continued, and she finally was referred to a gastroenterologist. A colonoscopy revealed that there was microscopic colitis seen in her colon. The doctor prescribed a prescription for a medicine costing $75 for a month’s supply of pills, and she was informed that she would probably need to take them for a long time.

When I accompanied her to the follow-up visit a couple of weeks later, it dawned on me that perhaps lactose was contributing to her problem. Since my mother’s symptoms did not appear until hours after drinking milk, she had not perceived that milk was the culprit. But I thought differently about that since we had learned just several months earlier that our daughter was lactose intolerant. It had been difficult to diagnose since the symptoms of it were delayed for hours and sometimes even into the next day. I mentioned this to my mother’s physician, and he suggested that she drink a very large glass of milk to see what would happen. Not wanting to endure possible misery from experimenting that way, my mother chose to simply stop consuming any dairy products for a few days. After two days of eliminating milk from her diet, she was symptom-free!

There are now tests that doctors might order to diagnose this, but we found that simply eliminating dairy products that contain lactose gave us the answer.

Sometimes the body may be producing a small amount of the enzyme (lactase) that helps digests the milk sugar (lactose), and the digestive system may be able to handle very small amounts of dairy products when consumed a few days apart. This factor can add to the confusion of trying to figure out if you are lactose intolerant. For example, it might be possible for you to drink a glass of milk after not having had any for a few days without having any symptoms, thus making someone think that milk doesn’t bother them. But possibly, if you drank a glass of milk for 2 consecutive days, the symptoms might return on that 2nd day of drinking milk.
Fortunately, it is fairly easy to find some lactose-free dairy products. In our family we prefer to use the organic lactose-free milk since we are trying to stay away from any remnant antibiotics that might be found in non-organic dairy products. Lactose-free cottage cheese is available in some grocery stores which works well in lasagna recipes. Sharp cheddar cheeses typically don’t contain lactose since they have been fermented long enough to eliminate the lactose. Also, most commercial yogurts usually have a reduced amount of lactose. However, if you are very sensitive to lactose, you might want to consider making your own yogurt to totally eliminate the lactose. In our family, we use a yogurt machine and ferment it for 24 hours which removes all of the lactose.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I wanted to mention that we have had success in making pumpkin pie by using lactose-free whole milk instead of milk cream. Also, for those who have Crohn’s disease, replacing the sugar in a recipe with rice syrup works well.

If you have any additional tips or info about your experience of being lactose intolerant, I hope you will share your comments. Thanks!

For further information about lactose intolerance, you might want to check out the following websites which give detailed descriptions about it.

Hope you have a blessed fall season!


Friday, August 12, 2011

When Things Don't Seem Fair: Anger and Intestinal Bugs

August 11, 2011

When Things Don’t Seem Fair: Anger and Intestinal Bugs

Life can be full of experiences that prompt the thought—“when things don’t seem fair.” Even when we try to do all the right things and follow all the rules, there are times when things simply don’t seem fair. If only we could see the big picture of how it’s all going to turn out, it seems it would be much easier to deal with life’s challenges.  Sometimes I wish I could simply peek into the gallery of the Great Artist and see the finished picture.

Several years ago I came across an article in a medical journal about intestinal bacteria and our emotions (Human fecal flora: variation in bacterial composition within individuals and possible effect of emotional stress by Holdeman, Good and Moore).  The purpose of the research was to analyze the kind of bacteria that several astronauts had during a 5-month duration.  During that time they ate a controlled diet in a confined environment.  A situation arose that caused anger with the astronauts, and it was discovered that anger was most likely responsible for the increase of a normally present GI bacteria species, thus throwing off the balance of the intestinal bacteria.  When the anger was resolved, the bacteria resumed a balanced state.

One might think that maybe this was caused by just general stress, but further research was done to determine if other types of stressful situations, such as exam time for students would cause the same imbalance.  The results indicated that other stresses didn’t change the bacteria balance, so it seemed that anger was the predominant cause in the astronaut study.

I’ve thought about that study from time to time and have wondered if having significant frustrations or anger about dealing with a chronic illness such as Crohn’s disease can affect the course of the illness.  Encountering and enduring situations that can cause anger is simply a part of life, but there are productive ways to get rid of it.  Any kind of physical exercise can be of great benefit as well as simply writing or talking with a friend about it, or you may have your own way of dissolving anger issues. Prayer can also certainly play a huge part in bringing about peace of mind.

Perhaps one day we’ll know if resolving anger is a part of the complete picture containing the answers to Crohn’s disease or other illnesses.  But until then, maybe trying to get those spots of anger wiped off the canvas might be a good idea. 

May you be blessed with a peaceful day and with happy “bugs.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sharing Our Story

Our family's story is now on YouTube.  Please feel free to pass this on to others who might be interested, or share it by clicking on one of the social networking icons at the bottom of this post.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Great Adventure

We have recently returned from a trip to Michigan, where the tulips and daffodils are now blooming, but finished blooming in Virginia long ago.  However, during the ten days we were gone, the budding new leaves on the trees in our yard drastically changed into full green leaves, totally enhancing the view seen from our windows. This has prompted me to reflect on how quickly life changes with its ups and downs leaving us with a different view.

A dear friend of mine and I have had an ongoing discussion this year about the adventures of life.  As we have seen God’s hand work in so many details, a persistent common thought has developed: we wonder what will happen next!

There is a song written by Steven Curtis Chapman called “The Great Adventure."  I often think of some of the words in this song, “Saddle up your horses, we’ve got a trail to blaze” and “We’ll travel over mountains so high, we’ll go through valleys below.”  My friend gave me a Christmas ornament of a horse which now sits on my kitchen windowsill as a reminder through the year to expect a great adventure with each new day.

From life experiences, my husband and I are learning to expect changes that we cannot begin to predict. Through the past seven years, life has truly been an adventure as we have shared with countless people the story of our daughter’s restored health. It touches me deeply to hear of others who are faced with challenges of IBD.  Their words of despair remind me of the despair I felt in the past, but now it is replaced with a hope that is more powerful than this disease.

With the occurrence of Crohn’s disease continually increasing, we meet up with people frequently who either have Crohn’s or know of someone who is battling it.  On our trip to Michigan, I neglected to take any of my Crohn’s books with me, assuming that I would not likely meet up with anyone with Crohn’s disease on this trip.  But during our stay, I learned of a mother whose daughter is currently going through tests to rule out Crohn’s.  I had a chance to meet this mother, and I felt her pain while I listened to her questions.  As she faces the unknowns of her daughter’s health, I remember the dark days of 2003 when we faced many unknowns with our own daughter.  I would never have imagined in those days the great adventure that we would be embarking. While I continue to meet people who are plagued with Crohn’s disease, I yearn for them to be well.

So, as I saddle up my horse and get ready for the adventures in the month of May, I wonder what will happen next.  May you be blessed with a ride today that will be one filled with hope and good health.

Blessings and Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there!

P.S. Here’s an oatmeal cookie recipe that we have enjoyed using that is not in the book. It does not have any white sugar in it, so it has a different consistency than a regular cookie.

1 ½ cups oats
½ cup oat flour or whole wheat flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp of cinnamon
2 medium bananas, mashed
½ cup of unsweetened applesauce.
Chopped pecans, raisins, or grain-sweetened chocolate chips (optional)
Mix applesauce and mashed banana together.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.  Drop by spoonfuls on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees. I personally like them better after they have been refrigerated. They also freeze well.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Season of Life

With the spring season having arrived, even though the weather hasn't gotten the message here in this part of Virginia, I think of changes during the seasons of life.  Much of my time in the past year has been devoted to caring for my dear mother who recently entered through the gates of heaven.  Like the changing of the seasons, I am entering a new season of life myself.  Today, I continue to feel blessed that our daughter Sarah remains well without any symptoms of Crohn's Disease.

I recently went down memory lane to recall what life was like eight years ago this month when we were searching to find out why Sarah was anemic.  I pulled out my journal from 2003.  For the previous months, there had been numerous trips to the lab, hoping that the iron levels would come up since she was taking iron supplements.  Much to our continued disappointment, the levels remained abnormal.  Sarah's fatigue was ever present.  The stress of the unknown for her was exhausting to me, and I'm sure all parents of sick children can relate to that.

Trips to the different doctors brought us closer to a diagnosis.  I had hoped it would be something less serious like food allergies or maybe some other less complicated disease than Crohn's.  With Sarah having only minimal GI symptoms, I wanted to choose to ignore that possibility.

Time inched by that spring as we constantly awaited lab results to reveal the clear pictures.  Concern began to increase as we heard words from the doctor that we didn't want to hear, "We need to do an Upper GI x-ray to rule out Crohn's disease."

Spring stretched into summer and in July, a colonscopy indicated that Sarah did indeed have Crohn's disease. I was so upset.  I feared for her future, knowing the side effects of the powerful drugs. However, I felt a driving force within me to seek other answers.

In August, all the pieces of the puzzle began to fall in place for Sarah's return to good health when we met Dr. Poley.  I later realized that we were learning a lesson about God's perfect timing through this. It had taken almost a year of searching for the cause of Sarah's anemia by going to the pedicatrician, a hematologist, and two other GI doctors before we saw Dr. Poley.  It was terribly frustrating during that year that it was taking so long to find answers.  But if we had seen Dr. Poley any sooner than we did he would not have been to the GI conference in Europe, where just prior to our visit with him he had learned about the research done with Culturelle.  If he had evaluated Sarah earlier in the summer, he most likely would not have suggested the treatment that he did.

Many times I get impatient, wanting to know answers immediately.  I began to realize that sometimes even if I don't know the reason for the delays when we are enduring the trials of waiting, it's important to hold onto the hope that things are working for our good, although we may not see it for awhile.

I'm wondering what this new season of life will bring...most likely new lessons to learn.  I hope that you too will find new answers to life's challenges at the perfect time.

Blessings of good health to you,  Martha