DDW: Digestive Problems Tied to Somatoform Disorder

Lactose intolerance may not be linked to lactose malabsorption but to a psychological disorder

MONDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- Gastrointestinal problems associated with lactose intolerance may not be tied to lactose malabsorption but rather to a psychological disorder, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week 2011, held from May 7 to 10 in Chicago.

Guido Basilisco, M.D., of IRCCS-Ca Granda in Milan, Italy, and colleagues evaluated 102 consecutive patients with suspected lactose malabsorption to determine whether symptoms of lactose intolerance were due to lactose malabsorption or to a somatoform disorder. The patients underwent a 15 g-lactose hydrogen breath test.

Lactose malabsorption was diagnosed in 33 percent of patients and lactose intolerance was diagnosed in 29 percent of patients. The investigators found an altered level of somatization was significantly associated with the perception of lactose intolerance symptoms after the ingestion of 15 g of lactose. In addition, univariate analysis revealed that intolerant patients showed significantly greater somatization, anxiety, and global severity index scores. Multivariate analysis showed that altered somatization significantly increased the risk of intolerance (odds ratio, 4.184). However, the effects of the other psychological variables and lactose malabsorption presence were not significant. Those with somatization more often reported the presence of at least three lactose intolerance symptoms (62 versus 20 percent).

"These results suggest that symptoms of lactose intolerance could reveal a somatoform disorder and that counterproductive behavior such as diets excluding milk products should be discouraged," Basilisco said in a statement.

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