The Windy Shores of My Gut

Up until now I have been in denial. Sounds dramatic but I’ll spare you the suspense and admit that I am lactose intolerant. What an anti- climax that was! Thankfully this only means that consuming products with lactose gives me a long bout of continuous wind that makes me feel like a deflating balloon. I know that this condition isn’t as serious as someone that is allergic to lactose or, like my best friend, severely dairy intolerant, but I find that it is more embarrassing in terms of letting off stink bombs in public places and then having to pretend that it wasn’t you.

When I was younger all I drank was milk and water. My friends and their parents used to question this continuously when I went round on play dates and everyone tried to offer me squash as an alternative. As a stubborn youngster from birth until becoming a teenager, I was not to be swayed; milk was the way. For a long time now though, I’ve been drinking ‘Lactofree’ milk, partly because my parents drink it and partly because I was once sick from drinking large quantities of normal milk at a friend’s house. This was a few years ago and at the start I didn’t notice the effect that consuming lactose had on me, it seemingly had no effect and I continued to eat as many lactose containing products as I wanted; cheese, chocolate, the lot. I had to cut out cream a few months ago as I experienced the most excruciating stomach cramps after putting nearly a whole tub in a sauce for my dinner but that was easily accomplished.

It’s only recently that the severity and frequency of my flatulence has begun to concern me, mainly because I once caused everyone in my group to leave a bar with something that would have resembled a green mist in a cartoon. Obviously no one knew it was me; I’ve become almost too good at protesting my innocence when it comes to this sort of thing, mainly because it would be too embarrassing to own up! It was only the other day that a really good friend confronted me about it (in the nicest way possible) because she’d connected the dots and had compelling evidence to contradict my pleas of innocence. They mainly included the point that she always got whiffs of bad smells when she was around me.

Then it hit me, not the smell but an epiphany. I am lactose intolerant. Before, this had been a statement that I accompanied with “but it doesn’t really affect me, it’s only milk” and I could see that this was no longer true; the cream cheese that I had eaten for lunch over five hours ago was still repeating on me. It was apparent that the amount of lactase I possess in my small intestine has reduced significantly and my wonderful colonic bacteria are enjoying the increase of indigestible lactose I keep providing them with. If I didn’t want to experience the embarrassment of producing gasses that a cow would be proud of then I would have to do something about it. Now.

I’m lucky that there is a whole range of products to help me get my fix of dairy but without the embarrassing consequences. Lactofree do more than just milk now and I’ve begun to eat 70% or 85% dark chocolate to stop my skin suffering. So far cheese is safe as long as it’s not the cream variety and hopefully I’ll still be able to enjoy a good wedge of cheese in the future without having to conceal a gust of wind that could spin a wind turbine.

For many of you this issue may not even seem like an issue at all. “Just get on with it and stop whining,” you might say, or “I’m allergic to dairy, try that for size!” I agree with all of this and I don’t think I would able to cope with being allergic to something that I eat so much of but we all have our problems and this one has really been affecting my self- confidence. Before the epiphany I didn’t really know what was causing me all this bother and I began to think that if I started dating, the new person in my life would either gracefully accept the problem or make their excuses and leave. The latter seemed more probable and I seemed to be faced with a future bereft of dating because I couldn’t control the inner workings of my digestive system. Thankfully I can now make sure that this won’t be the case because I can control it.

If you think that you suffer from lactose intolerance because you’ve been having the same problems, you can read about it on the NHS website. Alternatively, if you think that you might have an allergy to dairy products, information can be found via the same link.

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