It all started last January. I had a bit of a dose of Gastroenteritis that thankfully cleared up quickly. Shortly after that I started to have other almost random, gastric problems. Without getting into too much detail (suffice it to say, that it was not pleasant for me or anyone in the vicinity) this went on for 3 months of trips to the doctor, days missed in college, tests in James hospital, until the doctor announces that through process of elimination there are 2 possible causes of my symptoms, Lactose Intolerance or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
There was some discussion about IBS because there was no way (as I explained to my doctor) the universe could be this cruel to me. But that discussion came to an end pretty quickly when “invasive procedures” were mentioned and I began a 2 week lactose free diet the very next day.
I was so convinced that the universe could not be this cruel that I stopped at the shop on the way home and spend about €5 on chocolate, Sausage rolls and chocolate milk. You see where I’m going here. I was going to prove that doctor wrong and not need to do the lactose free diet because I had digested the equivalent of a cow’s worth of dairy and been fine…
a short while later…
While running for the nearest toilet\: “oh god, oh god, oh god Nooooo, I’m going to have to do this damn dairy free thing!”
And skip forward to my sudden realisation that the universe can be a bit of a dick!
I guess the best thing that happened to me while doing the 2 weeks without dairy in my diet was having someone who has lived with lactose intolerance to talk to. Not just about good options to use instead of milk, butter etc. But also because they understand more than most just how much food contains dairy in one form or another and how much this can limit your options when eating out, or at other events.
It was amazing how quickly the symptoms that had ruled my life for 3 months cleared up and disappeared just by removing dairy from my diet. I’ve discovered since that by not taking milk in my breakfast, tea or coffee I can handle small amounts of dairy used in cooking, not enough that I would think about eating a Pizza slice, but enough to know that if something was cooked with butter then I shouldn’t feel too much discomfort.
I was toying with the idea that I would occasionally take the discomfort hit for a good meal or the occasional treat, when I remembered a conversation I had a few years ago with one of Elly’s co-workers who was lactose intolerant. It was just after he had downed a steak with garlic butter. I was curious about why he would risk the dairy, would it not make him ill?
Turns out, he had taken a pill at the beginning of the meal, a lactase supplement (lactase is what allows us to digest dairy), which meant he could eat pretty much anything for about an hour after that. It wasn’t something that he did for every meal, it’s less hassle and more cost-effective to simply not eat dairy most of the time but at least he had the option to eat dairy every now and again as a treat or when eating out.
So, I went and did a bit of research online and found that I hadn’t dreamt this up and that I could buy a lactase supplement from Amazon. (Unfortunately, pharmacies in Ireland don’t stock adult lactase tablets.) I did and I’m happy to say that Kirkland’s “Fast Acting Lactase” tablets really work for me, I just take one with my first bite of dairy and I have no discomfort. If I’m eating for more than an hour I simply take an extra tablet and I’m good for another hour.
It means that while I can (and will) learn to cook lactose free food for myself and adjusting what I eat to make up for the lost nutrients, I still have the option, if I’m eating away from home, to pop a tablet and not have to worry about the possible downside.