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This week we respond to questions about computer use and lactose intolerance.

Dear HOUSE Calls,

I spend a lot of time in from of the computer. Is it better to have the lights on or off?

That is such a great question. We are all spending more and more time in front of the screen. Because of this there is more information than ever regarding eye strain and a number of ergonomic problems related to computer use.

There is even a new syndrome called ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’ which gives people headaches, blurred vision, and neck pain from being on the computer a lot.

We do recommend that that you keep the lights on. The contrast between the bright screen and the dark room tends to place more of a strain on your eyes. Make sure you have a comfortable chair at the right height and a keyboard best designed for your needs. Elevating the screen off the desk will take tension off your neck. Take breaks for your eyes and your body.

Dear HOUSE Calls,

I’d like to know more information about lactose intolerance in adults, some of the best ways to get tested for it and some of the best products to help with lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance is when people get belly pain, bloating and sometimes gas or diarrhea that’s related to dairy or lactose-containing foods. They are missing an enzyme that is needed to digest this lactose (called lactase). Lactose intolerance is something which is both relatively over diagnosed and relatively common. It is especially common in people of African descent.

The best treatment for lactose intolerance is reduction or avoidance of lactose containing foods (dairy). That can be really hard to do. Some people will soy substitutes or lactose free dairy products (such as those made by Lactaid, includes milk, cheese, and ice cream). Many foods in restaurants will contain dairy, making it hard to avoid. There are lactase supplements (also known as Lactaid) which can be really helpful.

Many people are diagnosed with lactose deficiency based on the results of a self or doctor imposed elimination diet. One example is to eliminate all dairy for 3 days and see if symptoms improve, followed by 3 days with a lot of dairy.

There are 3 tests we know of for lactose intolerance. There is a blood test for glucose after ingesting a lactose load (if you can’t digest lactose, your glucose should not rise) and there is a breath test after a lactose load which measures hydrogen. If you don’t metabolize lactose, it ferments and makes hydrogen. The last test, used for infants, measures stool acidity which increase in a person who can’t digest lactose. Work with your primary care provider to get some more information and maybe some testing before you restrict something from your diet.

HOUSE Calls is a weekly column by Dr. Cristy Page, Dr. Adam Zolotor, and Dr. Adam Goldstein on behalf of YOUR HEALTH and the UNC Department of Family Medicine.

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