Growing up, milk was never my favorite thing to drink. I would drink it at lunch time and it made my intestines very uncomfortable for gym class! I assumed that everyone else felt this way too, so I ignored my problem. As the years went by, things I used to eat gave me very painful stomach cramps and diarrhea. I would be able to eat pizza one day, but the next time I ate it, I would be running to the bathroom. I even remember going to an event with my cousin to a swanky country club, only to need to use the restroom urgently (and for a long time). She waited with me in the bathroom. Someone walked in and commented that the “Rose Room” did not smell so rosy! My cousin was furious to find I had pulled my legs up and propped them on the door! All kidding aside, Lactose Intolerance is a very natural and almost inevitable lot in life for most adults. As you grow, your body naturally produces less and less of the lactase enzyme, which breaks down the lactose in your diet. A lack of this enzyme is enough to cause most people bloating, gas, rumbling in the intestines (mainly on left side!), nausea, diarrhea.
75% of most of the general population is lactose intolerant to some degree. Asian descendants seem to have close to a 90% incidence in adults according to some studies. A doctor can perform tests to see if you have this condition, but I have found that common sense is a good, cheap test. If you cannot drink an entire glass of milk without experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, then chances are, you are lactase deficient! Try a nice big glass of lactose free milk and see if there is any difference in how you feel.
At first, you are probably in denial… it couldn’t have been that late night piece of cheese cake that caused your 4:00 a. m. wake up call! If you are careful, you can sneak lactose rich foods by your intestines by loading up on other food. I was able to use that trick for a long time until it wore out. The older I got, the harder it was to sneak things by my body without it knowing! You don’t have to give up your dairy food. You need your Calcium and Vitamin D! Instead, the condition, while immensely common, is very easily treated without dairy avoidance. There are OTC lactase caplets you can buy, Lactaid is one brand name, though many generics are on the market, which are just as good and much cheaper! You can also buy lactose free products, like Breyers lactose free ice cream if you just can’t live without your nightly ice cream. There’s always soy milk, but you can easily find lactose free milk on the grocer’s shelf if you take the time and look.
For me, the most difficult thing has been to resist the urge to eat a chocolate bar without taking my caplets. If I don’t have my pills on me, I pass up the dairy food, so I have put some caplets in my car so I don’t have to worry about having them in my purse. I also read labels a lot more for hidden milk, which is disguised as whey, curds, milk by-products, dry milk solids, and non-fat dry milk powders. They are easily snuck in to just about any food that comes in a box or bag. Mashed potatoes at a restaurant? Most likely has some milk in there. If you are lactose intolerant, if you did not prepare it yourself, take your enzymes. I almost always take mine when I eat out since everyone prepares food differently and something I would not normally put milk in may very well have some hidden from me and I do not want to find out later, the hard way.