Lactose intolerance, osteoarthritis and dysphagia

My friend has recently been diagnosed as lactose intolerant.

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What is the treatment?

Lactose intolerance is the inability of the body to completely break down lactose, a type of sugar found in milk.

The symptoms can be prevented by being careful with your diet. Young children with lactose intolerance should not eat or drink foods containing lactose (i.e. dairy products). They should eat non-dairy butter and cream, and use soya-milk.

Older children and adults may be able to tolerate certain amounts. Most hard mature cheeses, ricotta, cottage and cream cheese contain only very small amounts of lactose and are usually well tolerated. Yoghurt also causes few problems.

For adults, lactase enzyme is available in tablet form as a food supplement. For babies and infants, the enzyme is available from pharmacies in drop form. It can be added to breast milk or formula to prevent the digestive discomfort, bloatedness and wind that lactose intolerance can cause.

My elderly mother has recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Is there anything she can do for herself to reduce the effects of the condition?

There are many ways in which your mother can help herself to manage this condition.

To reduce stress in an affected joint, it is important that your mother keeps to her ideal weight, paces herself and spreads out physical activities throughout the day rather than doing everything at once.

It is also important that she wears the right shoes - ideally shoes with thick soft soles, and using a walking stick can also be helpful.

Lastly, and it may seem surprising, but exercise can also really help, as long as it is the right kind.

Strengthening exercises can help to stabilise and protect the affected joint, reduce pain, and help prevent falls.

Some aerobic exercise can help to improve people's overall health, promote a good night's sleep and encourage the body to produce 'feel good' endorphins.

WHAT IS...DYSPHAGIA?

Dysphagia is a term used to refer to difficulties with swallowing.

Symptoms include not being able to swallow, pain while swallowing, bringing food back up, coughing or choking when eating or swallowing, a sensation that food is stuck in your throat or chest, unexplained weight loss, and frequent lung infections (pneumonia).

There are three main treatment options: swallowing therapy, where a speech and language therapist (SLT) will teach you to 'relearn' how to swallow; dietary changes, such as eating softer foods, or feeding tubes, which can be used to provide nutrition while you are trying to recover your ability to swallow.

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