Saturday, 9 May 2015

Discovering Lactose Intolerance

I thought I would share something that has impacted my life in quite a big way. Like other thousands of people, I am Lactose Intolerant. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it means my stomach cannot digest the sugars in milk, called lactose, which are present in products that contain dairy.

Many people get confused between Lactose intolerance and being allergic to dairy:

  • If you are allergic to dairy it means you cannot have any products that contain dairy
  • If you are Lactose intolerant you can only have dairy products if the lactose sugars have been removed. For example I have Lactose free milk which is pure dairy milk from a cow but it has had the lactose extracted from it.

It’s very common for babies and young children to be Lactose intolerant since birth however my story isn't quite as simple as that. I had always been able to eat dairy, I adored my chocolate and cheese so much! I think the fact that I know what a real Galaxy and a chocolate fudge gateau tastes like it makes it 10 times harder to be without.  Those who are born Lactose intolerant will know no different. 

Unluckily for me, it all started once I returned home after a month’s adventure in the heart of Kenya at the end of the summer in 2010. I had the time of my life with a group of like-minded people experiencing a whole new culture and seeing the shocking poverty in Africa. The memories will stay with me forever; also however , will the question ‘If I didn't go to Kenya would I still be eating my favourite foods and not lactose intolerant? ‘ 

As you can imagine after a month of roughing it and not having a comfy bed to sleep in I was shattered and all I wanted to do is spend time with my family and sleep. As expected, once I got into my own bed, I slept for days, which soon turned into weeks. It wasn't until 2 weeks passed and I thought that something must be wrong, surely I had caught up on all my sleep by now? I started to worry and remembered that when I was in Kenya I had spent a few days in my sleeping bag poorly whilst my friend got admitted to hospital but I insisted I would be ok. Baring this in mind, I instantly thought I had caught a parasite or something even worse. I had the following Symptoms:

+ Extreme Fatigue after eating ( 12 hours or more! )

+ Depression and tearfulness after consumption
+ Increase in weight
+ Bloated, rocked hard abdominal distension
+ Vomiting  
+ Upset stomach 
+ Head aches
+ Spots

With all these symptoms, some more server than others, my parents wondered if it could be linked to something I was eating. With worries in mind I went to the doctors straight away to find an answer.

  The answer being that I had built an intolerance to a type of food and thankfully, nothing worse.  Apparently, it is really common when people have spent a long time in third world countries to catch a tummy bug, that can have a side effect of becoming Lactose Intolerant. I was told that dairy was the most common food intolerance; therefore I cut all dairy out of my diet straight away. This was a lot harder than it seems, however instantly I felt like a new person!

 I can’t tell you how many food products have dairy in!! I remember thinking the only food I could eat was lettuce leaves and nuts, I felt like a rabbit. However as time passed searching the supermarkets I soon got the hang of reading labels and finding foods that my stomach could tolerate. I can promise you, being lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy doesn't mean yummy foods are over forever. Luckily, I enjoy cooking therefore I am able to still eat yummy cakes and all things that are naughty by cooking with dairy free butter and soya / lactose free milk. However , now days I work 9-5 and cooking treats everyday along with cooking dinner, just isn't convenient – There  aren’t enough hours in the day!

When people find out I can’t eat most shop bought products ,like chocolate bars, biscuits, McDonald's burgers etc they always respond with something ,along the lines of ‘I don’t know how you do it’. To be honest it’s not a choice, I have to do it in order for my body to function properly.
There are so many shops out there that do NOT cater for lactose intolerant people and it makes me so angry. It’s like someone has taken the right away from me to eat and buy products from certain shops. Ok, occasionally some shops have a fruit salad available, but do you know how many fruit salads I have eaten since being Lactose Intolerant?  Millions. I am so bored of them, but if I’m hungry I guess it will do.

 Another frustrating fact that annoys me and I believe is so wrong, is the price they charge for dairy free products, it's ridiculous. It seems as if the shops are punishing me for something that definitely isn't my fault. I understand that many people cut out dairy to improve their lifestyle however the majority of people buying dairy free products are generally allergic and not choosing to live the ‘dairy free life style’.

There are some lucky people out there who are able to eat a product they are intolerant to by just being allergen free for a few weeks or months.  However this isn’t the case with me, I have been experiencing my Lactose Intolerance for five long years now. Sadly, at the moment I can’t see the day that I will ever be able to indulge in a 99 Whippy from the ice cream van again- But who knows what the future holds ( Hopefully sitting and eating as many 99p Whippys as I possibly can, without being instantly sick and being in excruciating pain!)

Next week’s post will be on my top 10 favourite dairy free treats that you can find in the supermarkets, without the outrageous price tag!

Do you live a dairy free diet? I’d love to hear your views and how you cope with the big change! 

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