FML: A Lactose Intolerant Bitches About the Woes of Being OneJuly 14, 2014
I haven’t been lactose intolerant all my life. If I can recall correctly, I’d been drinking and eating dairy products on a regular basis until the age of 15. Then my world came crashing down.
Okay, fine. It wasn’t that catastrophic at all. I just noticed that after consuming dairy products like milk, ice cream or cheese, I usually ended up locking myself in the bathroom for a good hour or so. While not life threatening, it does come with its fair share of painful (and potentially embarrassing) moments. That, and it can get totally inconvenient, especially during travel situations. Try having the best gelato of your life in Italy, then scrambling to find a public toilet that won’t give you a nasty rash or some communicable disease.
Before you conclude that I’m cursed, it’s interesting to note that lactose intolerance affects more than 90% of Asians worldwide. Yes, there is science to back it up. My guess is that milk really was never in our native diets (as opposed to Western European Cultures).
What Happens When You’re Lactose Intolerant
The effects of lactose intolerance usually manifest themselves about 30 minutes after consumption of dairy products. These include:
- Abdominal Bloating & Cramps – Yes, it hurts. A lot. And your pants get tight.
- Borborygmi – Or simply, a rumbly stomach. In your lowest, grumbliest voice, say “borborygmi.” That’s exactly the way it sounds.
- Flatulence – Self explanatory. Steer clear of enclosed spaces. Please lang.
- Diarrhea – Stock up on toilet paper and wet wipes. While you’re at it, bring a book or a few magazines, and hang a sign on the door that you’re going to take a while.
- Nausea – Again, inconvenient. Sit down a while and take a breather.
- Vomiting – God forbid. Thankfully, this hasn’t happened to me.
FML! I Want This To Go Away. Is There A Cure?
Curses! There isn’t any. No one’s yet developed a magic remedy to boost the body’s lactose enzyme production. There are, however, a few ways to lessen the symptoms:
Eat Less Dairy
Which is something I’m never ever going to do. I love my gelato and cheese way too much to do something this drastic. Still want your latte? Have your barista use soy milk. In most cases, supermarkets have (pricey!!!) alternatives to cow’s milk, whether it be soy, almond or other non-dairy variants. Same goes for ice creams—you’re better off with soy-based alternatives.
Yoghurt and FroYo fans, take note: Yoghurt still has a high concentration of lactose, though personally, it doesn’t affect me. I’d attribute this to the presence of probiotics (see below).
Regular Ingestion of Probiotics
Admittedly, I’ve never tried this route. Could work, just not a Yakult (or other probiotic liquid product) fan. My guess is you’ve to “train” your stomach by doing this.
Lactose Intolerance Pills
This is my preferred method. I usually have a few banigs of Lactaid Fast-Act packed into my office bag, my pockets, and in my car. Here’s where it gets a bit difficult—no drugstore stocks this stuff in the Philippines. I’ve tried going to Mercury Drug and Watsons, and they all recommend probiotic treatment. I chanced upon Lactaid Fast Act at S&R BGC a few months back, but most of the time, I ask relatives overseas to haul me a couple of boxes when visiting the Philippines.
I Want My Dairy. What Else Can I Do?
Okay, you stubborn foodie. My general rule is this: The softer the dairy item, the more lactose it contains. So avoid those. In terms of cheese, the harder and longer aged a cheese is, the less lactose is present. So yes, sprinkle as much Parmesan as you can on that pasta. Cheddar fans, rejoice! Aged cheddar has virtually no lactose left in it. Oh, with butter all the rage these days, it’s of note that butter contains only trace amounts of lactose. Go ahead and use it!
Lactaid has a handy chart of lactose content in dairy food here.
Lactose intolerance affects everyone differently, so I’d recommend consuming dairy in small amounts first—just to see what your tolerances are.
In the meantime, bring some toilet paper, an antacid and please—leave the window open.