The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Living and Surviving with Lactose Intolerance
It was not until later that I learned much of this, but when I was a child, like most mothers, they either breast feed or give their baby formula. My mom opted to feed me baby formula. When I grew from formula to milk, she noticed that I would cry a lot more and puke up the milk. An aunt of mine suggested that my mother give me goat’s milk but she never did. I would later come to love goat’s milk. I would also learn later, much later, that I was lactose intolerant.
As as a young boy, eating cereal with milk was common for me, and although there was nothing wrong with the cereal, I would get tummy aches. What was I do to? I had no idea what was going on. All I knew was that drinking milk caused me a lot of pain and bloating and even seemed to prevent me from losing any weight. Eventually, my entire diet would change, I would soon avoid anything with milk or dairy, ice cream, and especially not cereal. Though, somehow, I can still eat cheese and drink heavy cream.
Ice cream has and will probably always be a favorite of mine, though from recent events, which I will reveal to you soon, I will probably no longer be eating it. I love ice cream. Who doesn’t? I would eat it by eating just a few tablespoons. Nothing more, nothing less. The next day, I would wake up with stomach pains and I would mistakenly believe that it was just my stomach letting me know I was hungry because when I would eat, the pain would subside. I learned otherwise during a Thanksgiving visit to my dad. Normally, all year I behave myself and I try to watch what I eat. For Thanksgiving, although I did not go too crazy, I indulged and enjoyed myself.
One night during my visit, my dad and I were watching a movie and I went out to get ice cream. I got him chocolate and my favorite kind, cookies and cream. A half gallon. He ate about a half of it and so did I. The next day, I woke up, with some stomach pains, but assumed I was hungry again, so I ate, and the pain subsided. We went about our day, doing what we had to do, and I went to eat dinner with family I was visiting, and that night came, and I decided I would finish the remaining ice cream. Big mistake.
The next day, I woke up with an insane amount of pain. Beyond anything I had ever felt before. The pain felt like someone was stabbing my insides. Twisting and tearing at my internal organs. I want to describe it as period pains, but my girlfriend says I have no idea. It was likely gas and the inability to digest the milk enzymes within. It was horrendous pain.
To make it worse, I had to board a plane that day, so I could not get comfortable. Beforehand, my father took me to Walmart, where I got Immodium and Tylenol, which did absolutely nothing for me. I sat on a plane for three hours. Luckily, I had an aisle seat, so I could at least lean outward and not bother the two people sitting next to me. I could not get comfortable.
It was as if I had to go to the bathroom and I had to puke, yet I could not do either. I had tried earlier, sitting on the toilet for at least twenty minutes, but nothing happened. And certainly no offense to bulimics, but I would make a horrible one, as I jammed my finger down my throat more times than I would like to admit, but nothing was coming up. Whatever was in me was too far down to come back up.
When my plane landed at the second airport in Atlanta, Georgia, since most flights hardly ever fly direct anymore, I quickly went to every single store, hoping to find Milk of Magnesia or a liquid form of Pepto-Bismol. I needed something to coat my stomach and I was willing to pay top dollar for it just to make the pain go away. I felt as if I was getting weaker by the second and dying. It hurt badly and there was nothing I could do but wait it out. I thought about what would be good for the stomach. I ended up buying:
- 4 Advil Liquid Gel Caps
- 1 box of Pepto-Bismol with 4 chewable tablets
- 1 box of Alka Selzter Original with 4 tablets
Total came to about $8 but it was worth every penny. That was all that was available at the three or four stores I visited at the airport. I was so desperate to stop the pain that I just took everything. I did not care what the combination did to me. I just needed anything to coat my stomach. The plane opposite of mine had been delayed so they had offered everyone early beverages and snacks.
I walked over and grabbed an orange juice and drank about half the bottle. The pain continued and everyone boarded the plane. I sat down and warned my seatmate that I might squirm a little bit, as I was in pain from being lactose intolerant and ate something that I should not have.
I managed to fall asleep for about a half hour to an hour and did not even realize the plane had taken off. When I awoke, the pain was completely gone and I felt 100% better. I learned a hard lesson and now knew what my stomach had been trying to tell me all along: I am lactose intolerant and I cannot have dairy products. While I can have dairy in small doses, I still feel the minor pain of it, but the pain I felt that day on the plane was the exact same pain, only a major form of it.
I know better now and most people living with lactose intolerance are happy to take a pill beforehand that gives them the digestive enzymes to help them eat dairy products. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Me? I prefer to just avoid them all together. ANYTHING TO NOT EXPERIENCE THAT PAIN EVER AGAIN.
While I can still get away with eating cheese, goat’s cheese, drinking goat’s milk or heavy cream, there are other products that seem to have more lactose than others and I have since given up my beloved ice cream. There are, of course, alternative ice creams, including making your own with heavy creams or alternative milks and an ice cream maker.
There is also a company called Arctic Zero Ice Cream and they are totally getting free publicity right now because they are the only ice cream that I can still eat. They might be harder to find, but I have seen them at Sprouts and health stores. I have yet to see their products in any supermarkets. They do make their ice cream with any dairy in it and while you have to get used to the fact that it will not taste exactly like the “dairy” ice cream you are used to, it does still taste just as sweet. Their products are Gluten-Free, Lactose-Free, Low-Glycemic Index, Fat-Free, GMO-Free, and Kosher. What more could you ask for from ice cream?
So for those who are lactose intolerant and just wish to avoid the pain altogether, there are always alternatives out there. For me personally, I would prefer to not put my faith in a pill and have to deal with that type of pain ever again, and just realize that my body was born without the capability to digest cow’s milk. I know I am certainly not alone. I believe it is something like 65% of the world has what I have and at least half of those people, like myself, did not even realize they were lactose intolerant until much later in life.
I know I have not officially been diagnosed, but the signs are all there. Of course, the only way to officially tell is by going to a doctor and being tested. Or just assume that your body and cow’s milk were just never meant to be.