Could lactose intolerance be stress, anxiety or depression in disguise?

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According to recent research from Italy, the symptoms of lactose intolerance and other food allergies are all in the mind and are more likely to be a result of depression, anxiety or stress.

This may be hard to swallow for anyone currently suffering but that is actually what a study by researchers from the University of Milan revealed.

Previous research has already found that as many as nine in ten people in Britain who really believe they have a food allergy or intolerance are actually perfectly healthy the MailOnline reports, and that although 20 percent of men and women claim they are suffering from food allergies, the reality is that that less than 2 percent actually do.

The Italian study was led by Dr Guido Basilico and involved more than 100 people who were showing signs of lactose intolerance which include symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, and loose bowels. Dr Basilico and his team carried out tests to discover whether they really had a problem breaking down the sugar in lactose.

Part of the study also involved asking the participants about their mental and physical health and any aches and pains they experienced.

According to Dr Basilico, most people tested in the study were not lactose intolerant at all as they were perfectly capable of digesting lactose and the symptoms they experienced were more likely to be a result of stress, anxiety or depression rather than the milk in their coffee.

Dr Basilico is not saying that lactose intolerance doesn’t exist of course, as there are cases where a person’s genetic makeup may make it difficult for them to tolerate lactose; however, he is saying that for a large majority, the symptoms of lactose intolerance have more of a psychological basis rather than a physiological one. Just as stress can cause headaches, it can also cause tummy problem.

Believing yourself to be lactose intolerant when you’re not has implications on health as a shortage of dairy products could leave people severely short of calcium, increasing the odds of brittle bones, falls and fracture in old age so Dr Basilico is urging people to think twice before cutting out dairy products.

“Excluding dairy products should be discouraged and doctors should pay more attention to the psychological problems of their patients” he said.

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