“I’ll Regret This Later”: Life as a Lactose Intolerant Twenty-Something

Recently, some friends of mine have diagnosed themselves as lactose intolerant. One realized that milk in her coffee could result in hours of pain, the other was a lapsed vegan and spent an evening in the fetal position after reintroducing dairy to her routine. We went for frozen yogurt on a perfect May Saturday, and after her first bite of her tiny cup of Tasti D, she sighed. “It’s sooo good, but it’s going to hurt so much later. Can’t believe I forgot my Lactaid.”
As I took another bite of my own frozen yogurt, I couldn’t help but feel guilty for suggesting ice cream. She had only mentioned it in passing once, and I had completely forgotten about her allergy.
My friends are just regular twenty-somethings, not people my parents’ age who have a million and twelve other health problems. They work and play just like the rest of us, but it’s just not quite so simple. Digestive problems can be embarrassing, especially if you’re young and feel like you should be living as though you’re invincible. While you may not want to ‘miss out’ on things because of your allergy, making your mantra “No pain, no gain,” stop and think about it before signing on for a horrendous stomach ache. No one wants to see their friends hurt, and no one wants to be an enabler to that process by demanding you join them for pizza at 3 AM when you’re going to be in agony later.
An allergy can take the fun you may have associated with food and kick it aside. Every meal is a calculation, its own challenge, and eating becomes like work. What sounds good? Okay, now what sounds good but has no dairy? It seems so easy to say “avoid dairy products,” but think about the list you’re dealing with. It’s not just saying no to ice cream and grilled cheese. It’s kissing butter, milk (even in tea or coffee), cheese, yogurt, chocolate, frosting, sour cream, cream cheese, and foods made with them in excess, goodbye, and spending hours trying to figure out how exactly to replace them. No wonder vegans are so thin, there’s almost nothing they can eat. And the dairy replacements are expensive.
Fortunately, books like Skinny Bitch (which we’ve talked about before, and admittedly isn’t for everybody) serve as a great resource for people who need to find alternatives to the foods they love. Just because you have an allergy doesn’t mean you should have to spend every meal eating foods you hate. You just have to get a little creative, which isn’t necessarily fair, but at least leaves you with some options.
The Food and Drug Administration has a website devoted to explaining lactose intolerance in full, and there are forums online for people affected by this allergy, such as these here at Topix and here at Revolution Health. Please let us know how you or people you know have kept a food allergy from holding you back!

Dessert Pizza? Yes, Please!
Dessert Pizza? Yes, Please!
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