Elvira's Mystery Illness Traced to Milk

Nutritionists, not doctors, helped actress Cassandra Peterson

Sultry Cassandra Peterson, the actress who plays Elvira, suffered for many years with an incorrectly diagnosed, painful, and debilitating problem that baffled her doctors.

The mystery illness that Peterson suffered from gave her gut-wrenching, on-again-off-again stomach cramps that stopped her from doing most anything. The doctors guessed it was a stomach ulcer, so they prescribed dairy products as an alternative to drugs.

Discussing her illness from the past, she recalls, "I was a big milk drinker because all of the doctors I had gone to thought I had ulcers and were recommending I drink more milk. It went on for years with this terrible stomach problem."

After going to doctor after doctor and living with years of discomfort and confusion, Peterson decided to seek the help of nutritionists. Following a thorough diagnosis, they discovered the cause of her illness. "They finally found out that I had lactose intolerance to milk."

The genetic imbalance is an unpleasant physical reaction to dairy products that contain lactose and the inability to digest it. The symptoms occur soon after eating or drinking dairy products and can include abdominal bloating, gas cramps, rumbling stomach, diarrhea, etc.

By avoiding milk and dairy products, it can lead to a depletion of needed calcium in the body. And, if left untreated, lactose intolerance can lead to inflammatory bowel disease.

Getting a proper diagnosis and then taking calcium supplements and/or lactose supplements when eating dairy products can help the condition and prevent bone loss.

Peterson continued, that initially, "I quit drinking milk. I completely quit milk products and most cheese and sugar."

But since she needed calcium in her diet, Peterson took it step-by-step and slowly incorporated acidophilus milk and some cheeses. "I can drink acidophilus milk and eat certain types of cheese — anything where the lactose is already broken down," said Peterson.

Although she went through years of senseless pain, by not being properly diagnosed, today she feels that she has a new lease on life. Her diet includes many fresh fruits and homegrown garden vegetables.

“I grow almost all my own vegetables," she said. "I have a garden and it’s really nice. Mostly I grow herbs, but then I grow lettuce, tomatoes, Swiss chard, arugula, and many green vegetables. I really eat good food. I rarely eat anything canned or frozen and I make my own pasta. Cooking and gardening are really my main hobbies — it helps to make me healthier!"

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— Jay Christian, author of Hollywood Diet & Exercise Secrets and Hollywood Celebrity Recipes. Copyright © 2013 Jay Christian All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.