In seventh grade, I remember after lunch, every day, I had English and I would just sit in my desk and hunch over because my stomach was in so much pain. It just was unbearable, and I had to try to be invested in class and just couldn't, because I was in so much pain. My mom and I were trying to figure it out and she said, "Okay, let's just take things out of your diet and just figure it out, because it just seems like you're sensitive to something.
The first thing she suggested I take out was cheese and I love cheese, but after I cut out cheese from my diet for about a week, I did not have any more stomachaches. I felt so much better. My mom made an appointment with an allergist, and I went there to take a hydrogen breath test. I blew into a tube to check the hydrogen levels in my breath, because if you're lactose intolerant, you'll have more hydrogen in your breath. I think I had record levels. She'd never seen it that high. That was my official diagnosis with lactose intolerance.
Since I turned out to be lactose intolerant, that means that my small intestine doesn't produce this enzyme called lactase which digests lactose. So since I don't have this enzyme, my body doesn't know what to do with this lactose and it just hurts; I get gas and I get bloated, and it's just super unpleasant.
Since my body doesn't create this enzyme that digests dairy, they've created an enzyme in the form of a pill that I can just take with my meals. So that saves me a lot, but I am so sensitive that sometimes I just stay away from it. But if I really, really want to drink hot cocoa or have a tiny bite of cake, I know I can take a lactase pill and I will be fine.
The problem with lactose is that it's hidden in a lot of processed foods, so it's in some deli meats, it's in a lot of medications, it's in some breads, some cereals, they just stick it in places as a filler. If you're lactose intolerant, it's best to just obsess about the ingredients list on whatever you're eating.
At first it was really hard to just be that girl with the complications and to have to ask at restaurants if there's lactose in anything, or to make sure that I wasn't getting a ranch dressing with the salad. I had to be that girl at the party that couldn't eat the pizza. My advice would be to always be prepared with a lactase enzyme, because you can enjoy food with dairy in it if you eat one or two.
I'd also advise people to make sure they know what they can handle and what they can't, because there's no reason to limit things that your body actually might be okay with. I wish someone had told me that there is no lactose in very aged cheddar cheeses, because cheddar cheese is my favorite food and I avoided it for the last 10 years because I thought I couldn't have it.
I want people to know that lactose intolerance is just not a big deal. It hasn't really affected my life negatively because I control it.
Medical Reviewers:Robert Williams, MD Review Date:04-09-2013