Chat with the Chief: Got milk?

As a result of living in a different state, I travel quite a bit. As a general rule, this means lots of road trips, a part of my life that I became accustomed to a long time ago. 

This summer, however, I had a problem. When it came time to travel up to Michigan and spend the Fourth of July with my boyfriend’s family, I was miserably nauseous. For days. I knew I wasn’t pregnant and I didn’t have a single other symptom, so I was stumped and the four-hour drive was looking increasingly imposing. 

I did finally make it up there with several stops but I regret to say that I didn’t get to enjoy many barbecues or ice-cream parlors this holiday. In fact, I barely ate a thing for three days because it seemed that every time I did, I would have cramps, nausea and a myriad of other symptoms. 

At this point, I resolved to visit my doctor when I got back to Ohio, so I made the appointment and lived on crackers and Vernor’s for just a couple more days. 

When I did finally get back, I learned something new, something that apparently is fairly common: you can become lactose intolerant into your teens and adulthood. 

In retrospect, this made sense. Almost everything I had tried eating the past several days had had dairy in it one way or another. Cereal, cream of potato soup, grilled cheese, even the veggie tray with ranch dip at my boyfriend’s uncle’s place and that then threw me off for the whole day, even if I didn’t have any more dairy. 

So after living dairy free for several months with significantly fewer bouts of discomfort, here is what I’ve gathered from this lifestyle change: 

First, there are actually pills out there that help with this kind of thing. Lactose intolerance is essentially a result of your body not producing the enzyme, lactase, that breaks down dairy. So, naturally, there is a pill you can take with this enzyme in it to help. 

These have been a lifesaver because, to be brutally honest, dairy-free cheese is rough and ice cream with coconut milk or almond milk is expensive. Plus, it’s nice to go out and be able to order off a menu without asking for an ingredient list. 

On that note, I have also made the switch to almond milk as well. Sometimes I buy the lactase-added milk when it’s on sale but generally almond milk is a fair substitute. 

The upside in all of this? Apparently people of Asian descent tend to be lactose intolerant, which is why Asian cuisine generally doesn’t contain dairy. So while I’ll never be able to properly digest a piece of pizza again, Chinese takeout is still very much on the table. 

Click here for last week’s Chat with the Chief focused on applying to graduate.