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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Lactose / Dairy Intolerance

A post about problems with my digestion - with the gory bits avoided wherever possible.

Growing up, I bore a unfortunate similarity to Johnny Fartpants. :-s

Now, I'm pretty sure I've got an intolerance to Lactose. Lactose is the sugar in dairy products, sucrose being the sugar in plants etc. [I think that’s right – Ed.]

What this means is that I can't / shouldn't eat things which I love, namely no:
  • Cream
  • milk
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Dairy Yoghurt
If I do, then (as my Uncle, a retired Doctor described) lactose is broken down into carbon dioxide[?] gas, and a substance used a commercial laxative. (Most people can put 2 & 2 together, and seem to find this description acceptable – apologies if you don’t!).

So, it's dreadfully boring. When someone's eating a fantastic piece of [insert your favourite cheese here], I can only sit there and pine. Bah.

However, what's even more boring is how pathetic my Doctor was in terms of diagnosis and helping me understand the situation:
  • I told him that Caroline reckoned I had a dairy intolerance – the response was “you probably have Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    • I asked what that was - “er, it’s when your bowel is irritated”: I wasn’t impressed
  • They suggested I see the Practice’s Dietician
    • When I walked through the door, the lady concerned said “you’re not overweight”
      • I agreed, but said that I was seeing her about a dairy intolerance
    • She suggested that I take the dairy out of my diet
      • I responded that I had already done this
    • She said that last time she had studied this was at University (presumably 15-20 years previously) and she couldn’t really help
    • I asked whether she could recommend articles that I could read on the Web
      • She couldn’t, but offered to look on the Practice database – but didn’t have a password. Doh!
  • In fact, I went into the Practice a week later about another matter, and was given a piece of paper which had http://lactose.co.uk/ printed on it (it’s now http://www.foodreactions.org/intolerance/lactose/index.html)
So, the upshot was that the principle of taking a pill to help me digest food with dairy products in it was established – hooray! Lactase is the enzyme that my stomach appears to lack, and hence filling the gap with a pill *does* help.

I now tend to buy Lactase via eBay from the States. I have found that the CostCo own brand (Kirkland) pills seem to be the most effective.

Otherwise, I have eliminated as many dairy products – and products with dairy in them – from my diet, as possible. I put soya milk on my cereal and in my tea. I use Pure margarine, and Caroline uses Lactofree milk for cooking.

It’s worthwhile knowing that Tesco, Asda, and Sainsbury do “Free From” ranges, designed for people with various intolerances. I’ve also found soya yoghurts pretty good, although the plain ones are best avoided. Alpro does pretty tasty desserts.

Caroline has been fantastically helpful in terms of shopping, and takes a lot of trouble to check ingredients in the food that we have. However, we agree that I may have other intolerances.

N.b. I have tried products from sheep and goats, and they aren’t as effective as giving me trouble-free digestion as the products above. I’ve also tried things like Oatly, which isn’t bad. However, I find the Alpro ‘cream’ to be better.

Note – I first started drafting this in May 08.
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