(Health Day News) -- Lots of people have lactose intolerance, but it need not pose a serious threat to good health, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) says.
People who are lactose-intolerant can't properly digest a common ingredient found in dairy products such as milk and cheese. While there's no known way to reverse the condition, symptoms can be controlled through a carefully monitored diet.
For example, many will be able to enjoy milk, ice cream and similar products if they take them in small amounts or eat other kinds of food at the same time. Others can use lactase liquid or tablets to help digest lactose. For those who must avoid lactose entirely, experts advise a diet rich in greens, fish and other calcium-laden foods that are lactose free.
Smart shoppers learn to read food labels with care, looking not only for milk among the ingredients, but also for words like whey and curds -- signs that a particular food contains lactose.
In addition, lactose is used as the base for more than 20 percent of prescription drugs and about 6 percent of over-the-counter medicines, the AGA says. If you're lactose-intolerant, check with a doctor or pharmacist before you start taking a new medication.