Saturday, August 8, 2009

Wait, I thought milk was suppose to do a body good?

I'm sorry I haven't seen posting much lately. My work life has truly eaten up time, space and energy for little else. I'm trying to get an online shop for Jean Therapy up and have another little pet side project in the works as well. Sometimes I consider blogging but my meals and life with food really haven't been anything too special these days.

I've been trying to make peace with my issues with wheat. It's been tough. Anytime E had anything with bread involved, I ask to take a sniff before she digs in. And I take a deep inhalation. Sometimes I have a little nibble. Even a hotdog bun causes me to go into rapture. I miss bread so damn much that it all seems so damn unfair. If only I had known how truly "unfair" it was about to get.

Recently I had a doctor's appointment. I remembered to mention my stomach issues to her and she instantly scheduled a lactose test for me. I was a little taken aback. I mean, I'm Korean and all but I'm also adopted so I've had a glass of milk with every meal since I could remember. Dairy in the form of cheese and ice cream are a daily requirement for me; my cheese bin in the fridge is always stocked so I can have a quick snack and don't even get me started on the gallons of ice cream I typically have on hand.

When I came home and told E, we both thought the same thing. Perhaps, not really meaning to, my doctor had kinda stererotyped me as being lactose intolerant because I'm Asian. No matter, I'd go ahead with the test. It would be one more thing to rule out for me to be allergic to.

The test is a breathorlizer dealie and one that takes three hours to administer. Also, you can't have anything to eat or drink for 10 hrs before and this includes water. Since I was having the test in the morning I was able to sleep for most of the 10 hrs. But the period from 9-12 was a little rough because this was my typical midnight snacking time. E will have a glass of wine or bourbon and I reach for ice cream. Actually it's probably not the healthiest evening routine and I think we both might want to reevaluate.

I arrived for the test early. I was parched, cranky, tired and my breath was a little funky because I couldn't use "a lot" of water to brush my teeth and absolutely no Listerine. "Why, did I decide this was a good idea? I already KNOW I'm not allergic to lactose". I fumed and chided myself for going along with the test.

Soon I and four other people were ushered into a room and given clear keg cups half full of what looked like water. These were the lactose/sucrose solutions and we were told to drink the entire portion. I took a small sip thru my straw and deemed it not so bad. It was tepid and slightly sweet.

"Well, it could be worse", I thought as I proceeded to try and down the rest of the solution.

Okay, a few more sips into the beverage and I changed my mind. It was disgusting. Drinking lukewarm sugar water is really not fun at all. It was a lot to stomach and I was having trouble downing it all. I kinda felt like a wuss until I looked around the room at the four other people. They didn't look too happy either. Infact, the woman next to me said, "blah, this is awful!".

So armed with the knowledge that I wasn't the only one suffering, I pulled thru and emptied the cup. Every 30 mins for 3 hours we had to come back to the room and blow into the plastic bag. So for 3 hours, I played with my phone (the day that Twitter went down! drats!), watch the Today show and marveled over how many times they recycled the same damn new stories and internally kicked myself for taking the test when I was so not lactose intolerant.

But the reason for kicking myself changed about 20 mins after I chugged whatever was in the cup. My tummy was a mess. I was in a bit of pain and had some GI distress. F-ck! And it didn't stop. My tummy was a mess all day and into the evening as well. Damn me for taking a test that made me so sick!

I haven't gotten the test results back but I'm fairly certain that my test will come back positive and I am indeed lactose intolerant. My GI distress was almost immediate.

While the possibility of being both lactose and wheat intolerant really bums me out, I'm also trying to figure out how to move forward. People have told me that there are plenty of substitutes for wheat and cheese. Plus I know my friend V uses the lactose pills so he can easily handle the cheese on a cheeseburger. And I know that this is true but I also wonder if the best course of action, for me, not for anyone else, is to clean those foods out of my diet completely and see how I feel. I'm tempted to do the latter but I'm also baffled by what to eat, especially as someone who is so wedded to cheese and ice cream. And yes, I've had rice milk and soy milk ice cream and I don't really enjoy either one very much. And sorbet?! I mean it's got a place but sometimes you just want a big ole ice cream sundae or a vanilla creme brulee.

Alright, so I'm being a little pouty about the entire situation and I recognize that. Besides, if all this had come up for me years ago, I'm sure that I wouldn't have the world of alternatives and subs I have at my disposal now. And you know what? Pecan crackers aren't really half bad so maybe I'll be ok afterall.


Jenny T. said...

Hi Leah, sorry to hear about your recent food issues. Here I go with my unsolicited advice, but I feel like since I have some nutrition research expertise (I work at a nutrition research center and lecture at the school of nutrition at Tufts), I have some info to share.

The doctor didn't stereotype you as being lactose intolerant just because you are Asian. I feel like I can say this because a) I am Vietnamese and nearly 100% of Vietnamese people become lactose intolerant as they enter adulthood b) it is a genetically proven fact that many more Asian people are lactose intolerant as compared to Caucasian -- it is also true that Black people are more often lactose intolerant. It's just one of those unlucky genetic things -- similar to how Caucasian and Asian people are more at risk for osteoporosis... which is makes it even more important for Asian people to get enough calcium and vitamin D (which is often found in milk), to do weight bearing exercise and not smoke for our bones.

Also, there is a big difference between an intolerance and an allergy. Lactose intolerance is not a true allergy. Allergy has symptoms of itchiness, rash, loose poops, blood in poop (hidden or not hidden), weight loss, tummy ache, breathing problems and possible death. Intolerance will only have tummy ache and at most loose poops. So intolerance is not as dangerous as allergy. For lactose intolerance, those lactaid pills can work or you can drink Silk Milk (which I think tastes even better than regular milk... especially the chocolate version!), but having a bit of dairy will not put you at risk of all the other uglier allergy symptoms.

If you doctor thinks you have a gluten sensitivity like Celiac disease than that is more along the lines of an allergy and complete avoidance is the only solution or you can feel craptastic if you only get a teensy bit of wheat, rye or barley. I don't know if that is what your doctor thinks you have but the underlying process in the body is that for some reason (no one knows exactly why) exposure to gluten causes an immune system reaction that damages the lining of your gut. This is different from lactose intolerance as there are really no chronic long lasting effects (aside from chronic stinky gas, which is more of a nuisance). Untreated celiac can lead to low blood counts (anemia) and some other nasty things. This is why it bugs me when people call Celiac disease a wheat intolerance because it is really a much more serious thing than just an intolerance.

If it helps, I was just at an Italian restaurant near the North End that has an entire gluten free menu available, called Nebo. I didn't try any of the gluten free stuff, but the other stuff we had was great and so was the service, so it's worth a try for you!

Good luck and sorry for my nutritional tirade, but I hope it helps at least a little.

Leah said...

Hey Jenny!

I appreciate all your insightful comments. Yeah, this entire food intolerance/allergy thing is brand new for me and I'm sorta just getting my foot hold on how to handle it.

I know it shouldn't matter, but so much of my personality, in the past, is about me pretty much eating everything. I've always sorta had a "whatever, I'm down" approach to food.

Hopefully,I'll get the lactose test results soon from my doctor. As for the wheat "allergy" it was more self diagnosed than anything but at the urging of many friends, I've decided that I should get an honest to goodness test for that one too.

Thanks for reading and thanks for all the information. It was really helpful!

Katrina said...

Hang in there, Leah. Drop me a line anytime you want to complain. I COMPLETELY understand how much of a life change it can be. You'll adapt, but it is a PITA in the meantime.

5 magic words for you:
Chocolate coconut milk ice cream

Leah said...

Hey Katrina,

Thanks for all the support. Chocolate coconut milk ice cream?! Seriously? Such a thing exists? Ooh, sounds absolutely wonderful. I'm gonna go look that up right now.

Jenny T. said...

Hi Leah,
Glad to be of help. It's good to know all those years of school actually do amount to something some days!

I forgot to mention that gluten hypersensitivity/wheat allergy/Celiac disease is generally an illness found more commonly in Caucasian populations, but that being said I think there are reports in many other ethnicities, so if you are concerned about it then you should definitely get tested. Just beware that the doctor might look at you funny because he/she may reverse "stereotype" you in this instance! In any case, there is a blood test that you can get done, but there can be problems with the test if you have already eliminated all sources of gluten from your diet. The "gold standard" or best test is a biopsy of your gut lining but they will usually only do this test if you have a positive blood test because you need to have a "scope", where they stick a camera and some doohickies in there from the top end while you are sedated.


Leah said...

Hey Jenny,

Yep, thanks for the further info on the wheat/gluten test. Most likely I'm going to get the blood test. I have gotten rid of most wheaty things from my diet. Except for a mini donut this morning. It made my tummy hurt a bit. But I couldn't resist!

Thanks again! You're a wealth of fantastic knowledge and I appreciate it so much.