Monday, November 12, 2012

Lactose-Free: Week One

As you may already know from my last post, Mr. G and I are abstaining from fast food throughout the entire month of November. I know it's not that long of a time to abstain from anything, but we needed to force quit this habit for a bit to give our bodies a break (and to make sure we could do it). We're 12 days in now and so far, so good: no McDonald's, no pizza, no takeout, not even Chipotle! We've been eating all whole foods, all the time. Ok fine, except Halloween candy. But overall, it's still been a success.

Ironically, I've also suddenly had to give up another (much larger) portion of my diet per doctor's orders -- dairy.

Here's the back story: I get these weird, sharp chest pains sometimes, but they happen so sparingly I never think much of them. However, in the last couple of months (and especially in the past few weeks), they've been happening MUCH more frequently. They used to happen once every few months; now, they happen several times a week and sometimes even twice a day. I finally gave in and decided to make an appointment, but naturally when I call the doctor to report "chest pains," I have to go in immediately. So, in the midst of an extremely busy work day last Friday, I went to the clinic to see pretty much the only doctor left on a Friday afternoon. She did a chest x-ray (normal) and took my blood (I didn't faint this time!), but since my pains are quick, inconsistent and all over the place, she couldn't really pinpoint a cause. I told her that I was always under the impression that these pains were caused by digestive troubles, and since I have a pretty sensitive stomach, I had been wondering if they were somehow related to my diet. She rattled off a laundry list of tests to try and then asked me questions about my lifestyle and diet:

Smoke? No. Drink? Very little. Fruits/veggies? Eat them. Water? Drink it, albeit not enough. Sleep? Yes, but not nearly enough. (who does, amiright?)

Then out of the blue, she made a suggestion: Try going 2 weeks lactose-free. Lactose intolerance is very common, and many people develop it as adults. If my pain is caused by digestive issues, this could potentially be the source. So, going 2 weeks cold turkey is the best way to test that theory.

My first thought was: Nope.

Here's why: I consume a LOT of dairy. If you are what you eat/drink, I would be a cow. Seriously. Cereal every morning, coffee with (homemade!) creamer at work, yogurt with every lunch, cheese at most lunches/dinners... And that's not even the good stuff: chocolate, Nutella, ice cream, baked goods (if you know me, you know I love cupcakes), and did I mention Nutella? Nor is it the little stuff: sour cream, ranch dressing, cheese sticks, pasta sauce, some breads, and the list goes on.

But, I knew she was right. So I sucked it up, bought a bunch of dairy substitutes, ate a (homemade!) pizza and Reese's cake on my last night of lactose, and I dove in last Sunday.

I also did some research of my own to learn what specific ingredients to watch out for and to find some common substitutes for these ingredients. In my research, I learned that lactose intolerance is actually supposed to be the norm among humans and all mammals; we stop producing lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose) at age TWO. Yet we have adapted a tolerance to lactose over time that allows most of us to keep processing it. Still, it is estimated that 75% of people worldwide are lactose intolerant, and I'm trying to find out if I'm one of them.

So far, I've been (almost) 100% faithful to my diet, and I'm impressed by some of the dairy alternatives I've tried (vanilla soy milk is amazing), but I don't feel that different. In fact, I've had more chest pains this past week than ever. I'm not sure what that means, but I'll see how this coming week goes. If nothing else, I've been forced to eat super healthy, which can't be a bad thing.

Wish me luck! And please feel free to recommend lactose-free dinner recipes or, more importantly, dessert ideas. I did try lactose-free ice cream, and it was pretty good. But I miss chocolate a LOT.

<3 Mrs. G


  1. Ok, here I go again attempting to comment.

    First, is there really enough dairy in chocolate to avoid it??????

    Isnt it crazy how most people are at lease a little intolerant, but have no clue??? I hope you are finding some yummy dairy alternatives. I love almond milk, I use it for cereal and baking. For most other things, I just take a lactase supplement because let's face it, lactose free is hard. My big bad triggers are ice cream, yogurt, and a plain glass of milk. Thankfully cheese isn't too bad for me. I couldn't live without cheese. Interestingly enough, taking probiotics daily makes me less intolerAnt. No clue if there's any science behind that.

    Let me know if you find a good lactose free yogurt, I haven't found one I like yet.

    I'm very sorry to hear that so far you aren't feeling better. Have you and your doc considered acid reflux as a possible cause? It's notorious for causing chest pain. I wonder, if this doesn't work, if 2 weeks of Prevacid might.

    I really hope you feel better soon.

    I said more last night but now I can't remember it all, haha. Oh we'll.

  2. Chocolate is likely very low in lactose, but I'm just cutting everything out right now for my test period, even though I wouldn't actually live this way (lol). I saw that most cheese is very low in lactose, and some yogurts are supposedly fine - yogurt made with "active and live bacterial cultures," so maybe the Greek stuff? I don't really know what that means haha. It hasn't been too bad, though. I really like vanilla soy milk, and my butter substitute tastes pretty close to regular butter. It's just the yogurt and cheese that get me, too. And chocolate of course, but like I said, I won't quit that long-term. :) Do you avoid baked goods, too, since they're made with butter and milk?

    We haven't talked about acid reflux. It's more of a sharp, quick pain than a burning sensation, but anything's a possibility at this point. I'm also going to try gluten-free for 2 weeks (terrifying) and then I have a follow-up appt in December, so we'll see... Thanks for the advice!



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