Lactose Intolerance Struggles

Unless you’re a part of the super elite lactose intolerant club (or vegan), then you have no idea just how much of a pain in the ass it can be to avoid dairy. Even the tiniest amount can send our bodies into a miserable tailspin for the rest of the day. Just in case you don’t believe that being lactose intolerant is a truly miserable experience, here’s a little peek at what I go through every day.

People think you’re being dramatic.

I wish I had a quarter for every time someone, friends and family included, rolled their eyes at me for taking too long to choose something from a menu, sighed at me turning down some food item because it was covered in cheese, or laughed when said I felt bad after accidentally consuming dairy. Most people assume I’m being difficult and blowing it out of proportion. News flash: I can’t digest dairy, and that means my stomach feels like it’s being ripped from my body if I try.

You have to read the ingredients list for everything.

Anytime I go grocery shopping I have to check labels to make sure there’s no dairy hidden inside. Even things you think are safe, like crackers and granola bars, are secretly little lactose grenades. Even 99% of chocolate is off-limits. When I found dairy-free chocolate chips I wanted to break down in tears in the middle of the aisle. It takes me forever to finish grocery shopping, but the ingredients list is basically my best friend. 

You’re pretty much stuck with salad at restaurants.

Restaurants like to cook with butter, and they use a lot of it. Chicken is cooked with butter. Veggies are cooked in butter. Bread is made with milk and then slathered in butter. It’s everywhere. That means the only safe thing to order is a salad, and even then you have to request no cheese and that the chicken be cooked in olive oil. There’s also no ranch on this salad. Vinaigrette is your one ally. Sure, you can try to get something else off of the menu and ask that it be made without any dairy, but there’s always a risk it won’t be done right. It might seem like a risk worth taking, and trust me I’ve made that gamble several times, but it rarely ends well.

You can’t assume any food is safe.

You know what they say about making assumptions. As a lactose intolerant, I tend to think everyone cooks the way I do.

They don’t.

And I constantly have to learn that the hard way. Simply because my mom knows I’m lactose intolerant doesn’t mean that she made that casserole with my dietary needs in mind. Those free samples at the grocery store? Yeah, they’re laden with dairy. Nothing is safe.

Office treats are a trap.

Oh, those delectable little muffins look so good sitting in the office kitchen. They’ll taste good, and you’ll think you’ve entered pastry heaven until you find yourself in lactose purgatory. Your coworkers are wonderful people for bringing cookies, cakes, and other goodies to share with the office, but they didn’t make or buy those treats with a dairy-free mindset. So yeah, you can kind of enjoy them, but you’ll pay for it later, though.

The most delicious things are off limits.

Pizza. Chicken fettuccine alfredo. Lasagna. Cheeseburgers. Chili cheese dogs. Ice cream. Snickers bars. These popular eats are verboten (unless you want to spend the day in writhing pain.). Sure, I’ve thrown caution to the wind on occasion. Sometimes that pizza craving is stronger than my good sense. Is it worth it? If I’m sitting at home in a large t-shirt and sweat pants, then yes. If I’m out at lunch with my coworkers and have to go back to the office? Hell no.

You dream about cheese-covered delicacies all the time.

You’ve got to get your dairy fix wherever you can, right? These “sweet” dreams are a constant reminder of just how unfair life is. 

Potlucks, family dinners, and celebrations are miserable events.

I learned this when I was six years old and my first-grade class had an ice cream party right after my doctor told my parents to no longer feed me dairy. While my classmates and friends enjoyed their candy and chocolate syrup smothered sundaes, I got to eat a bowl of the chopped strawberries. Strawberries are delicious, but it wasn’t fun seeing everyone else’s ice cream smothered smiles. Every single food-centric gathering has been the same old story my entire life. 

You constantly have to choose between what you should do and what you want to do.

I know that I need to avoid dairy. I know that I will feel incredibly sick if I eat that slice of pepperoni pizza. I know that the hazelnut Coffee-Mate is a bad idea. But I still want to eat a scoop of cookie dough ice cream. I still want to smother my taco salad in queso. I still want to shotgun an entire large pizza. I have to choose between what I want and what I know is the right decision. As Ursula, the sea witch said, “Life is full of tough choices, isn’t it?”

Featured Image: depositphotos/garagestock