Dairy Contributes Significantly To Symptoms in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Adolescents

Dairy Contributes Significantly To Symptoms in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Adolescents

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Report or Study
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Dr. Peter Rowe of Johns Hopkins
Cow's milk protein intolerance is a common problem in young people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Dr. Peter Rowe

Dr. Peter Rowe of Johns Hopkins is an established researcher and doctor at Johns Hopkins University with dozens of ME/CFS studies to his name. He was one of the first researchers to find orthostatic intolerance in ME/CFS, to associate Ehlors Danlos Syndrome with ME/CFS, and the first to propose that muscle-tendon problems were impairing range of motion and causing exercise problems.

[bimg=fright|no-lightbox]https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6e/Dg_milk_containers.jpg/800px-Dg_milk_containers.jpg[/bimg]Now he's blazing another trail. He just published a study indicating that milk intolerance is common in adolescents with ME/CFS and is causing them significant distress.

In a robust study of 55 adolescents Rowe demonstrated that dairy commonly caused gastrointestinal disturbances in many young people with chronic fatigue syndrome, that removing dairy removed the gastrointestinal symptoms, and that reintroducing it caused the symptoms to come back.

In a former talk Dr. Rowe went so far as to say that milk caused such problems in those insensitive to it, that unless the problem was recitified (i.e. dairy products were removed from their diet) that significant improvement was unlikely.

The abstract stated that when milk was removed from the diet of milk intolerant adolescents that their health rebounded so that it was similar to others of their age with ME/CFS.

The gist was that milk problems don't cause ME/CFS but they can make make it significantly worse.

Why milk and dairy products can cause such problems in ME/CFS adolescents is unclear. Dr. Rowe's abstract did not indicate that his patients exhibited lactose intolerance which WebMD states in common in adults (but not in adolescents). In my case I only became dairy intolerant as an adult. I am able to tolerate lactose free dairy problems without gastrointestinal symptoms but they still produce increased fatigue.

Dr. Mark Hyman on the Dangers of Dairy

Because an infection can stop the small intestine can from making lactase - the enzyme needed to break down dairy products - a stomach flu can be one route to lactase intolerance.

The IBS Treatment Center, however, states that most cases of dairy intolerance don't involve lactose intolerance but result from an immune reaction begun in the gut to milk. Dairy allergies can result from a reaction to casein in milk and other dairy products and cause symptoms such as fatigue.

Cow's Milk Protein Intolerance in Adolescents and Young Adults with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Rowe PC1, Marden CL1, Jasion SE1, Cranston EM1,2, Flaherty MA1,2, Kelly KJ3. 2016 May 13. doi: 10.1111/apa.13476. [Epub ahead of print]

Purpose: To examine the prevalence, clinical features, and influence on illness severity of cow's milk protein intolerance in young people with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Results: In a 2 year prospective study of 55 adolescents and young adults with chronic fatigue syndrome, we defined intolerance to milk protein if subjects reported
(1) no evidence of immediate or anaphylactic reactions to milk,
(2) at least 2 of the following 3 chronic symptoms: gastroesophageal reflux, early satiety, and epigastric/abdominal pain,
(3) improvement in upper gastrointestinal symptoms on a milk protein elimination diet, and
(4) at least 2 recurrences of upper gastrointestinal symptoms > 2 hours following open re-exposure to milk protein. Subjects completed three quality of life surveys at baseline and at 6 months.


The mean (SD) age of the 55 participants was 16.5 (2.1) years. Seventeen (31%; 95% CI, 19-43%) met study criteria for cow's milk protein intolerance.

Compared to milk-tolerant subjects, milk-sensitive participants had significantly worse health-related quality of life at baseline but not at 6 months (after institution of the milk-free diet).

Cow's milk protein intolerance is a common problem in young people with chronic fatigue syndrome, and is a treatable contributor to their symptoms..
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