It seems I’m now lactose-intolerant…

I’ve been at a loss to know why I’ve had two bouts of diarrhoea/vomiting since Boxing Day.

I’m still at a loss to know why I get simultaneous vomiting and diarrhoea throughout the night, on occasion, but not during the day.

I’ve suspected I’ve been getting bugs, like Norovirus, delivered with groceries or mail but, while it’s quite possible, there seems to be no real correlation and I’ve pretty much dismissed that.

I’d also suspected my filter jug, but having bought some Milton and sterilised it, nothing’s changed, so it wasn’t that either.

I’ve wondered about my appendix, too, but I haven’t had a temperature or the degree of pain I’d expect, so that can be ruled out.

A few nights ago I had vicious heartburn after eating cream of chicken soup, which sat in my stomach like a pint of nitric acid, instead of the bland glop it really is (but with hindsight, of course, it contained milk). In fact, I had all the symptoms of alcoholic gastritis – except for the alcohol! Other than an occasional shot of gin or vodka if I can’t sleep, I’ve drunk almost no alcohol at all for nigh on 5 months. According to the battalions of anti-drink prodnoses, I should feel wonderful, but without my weekly dose of over-indulgence, I feel a bloody sight worse.

Another question – why doesn’t Imodium work? It does, eventually, but I’ve figured out it needs a double dose to kick-start the process (since Imodium now comes in double strength caps, clearly my problem with it isn’t unique).

I could, I suppose, have a bad case of IBS,** but I’m reluctant to start my usual live yoghurt remedy as it was that which kicked off the puking in December (though the maple syrup I added might have had something to do with that). Or it might have been coincidence – who the hell knows?

**In fact I do, but I think it’s a result, not the cause. And I think I’ll have to try soya yoghurt, if I can find a live bio version.

That’s because, on three occasions, I’ve suspected dairy products – Clover once, cheese twice – all three occasions triggering diarrhoea within a couple of hours, so for two days last week I entirely eliminated dairy from my diet and returned quickly to normal. A link? God knows.

Last night, as a test, I had fish pie, which contained milk and butter.

So, it’s now the next day, and after a wakeful night, constantly disturbed by thunderous noises from my gut, and a feeling of acute precariousness, this morning I had a touch of diarrhoea. Not too bad, as I suspect the amount of milk and butter in the fish pie was minimal, but I do feel awful and I’m reasonably certain dairy is now a problem.

Why that should be, of course, is any bugger’s guess. I’ve always thought that lactose intolerance was congenital, like gluten intolerance (coeliac disease), but apparently developing it as an adult is more common.

Anyway, the elimination test is pretty standard in diagnostics – if omitting lactose-containing food brings about an improvement, and adding it back in causes a deterioration, it’s a pretty solid indicator.

As for the vomiting, this could be due to the intense nausea, coupled with the fact that, for some reason, my gag reflex is on a hair-trigger right now, but the mystery of why it happens only at night remains.

For now, I need to be sure that anything I eat contains no dairy products (or as little as possible, anyway – they seem quite difficult to avoid 100%**). I’ve added some non-dairy spreads to today’s Tesco order (one sunflower, one soya, to see which is least disgusting), but such spreads have a problem – they invariably contain a sizeable, but unspecified, amount of water. I have no idea why this should be, but it does make for soggy toast!

**Perversely, I had a small 4-cheese pizza  last week, which in retrospect caused no problems at all. Conversely, a few ounces of a pretty good Lancashire was disastrous

I need to take a look at the more specialist end of the market – online food stores catering for vegans – to see if there’s a spread that isn’t loaded with water. I think I’ll be giving pretend vegan cheese a miss, though!

I also need a calcium supplement, since I’ll have to leave cheese alone (I weaned myself off my milk habit months ago). I could, I suppose, drink soya milk. It does leave something to be desired, but fresh, sweetened, Alpro is tolerable (though the long-life version is disgusting!).

Worth mentioning, perhaps, that a diet high in soya and oats brings cholesterol levels down faster than the high-priced spreads do. Some years ago, when my cholesterol levels were heading for the stratosphere (a family trait), I refused statins (again), and set out to tackle it myself with a diet high in soya and oat products, including soya milk and oat bread, and with great success.

A veggie diet high in soya products and low in animal fats isn’t for everyone, I suppose, but when the alternative is a class of drugs with a dubious safety record, it’s worth considering.

My biggest problem, though, is my planned switch to ready meals (not going well anyway, as quality leaves rather a lot to be desired no matter where they’re sourced). I’ve got half a dozen or more still to eat and I’ll spread them out so I don’t eat them on consecutive days, because I’m sure as hell not wasting them, though they can stay in the freezer for a while.

Long-term, though, I’m pretty much screwed, food-wise, as I simply can’t cook on demand (or, very often, at all). I’d planned to make a robust vegan stew yesterday (see my last post), but in the event I was just too ill. Ditto today.

Hopefully I’ll improve the further away I get from dairy products, but I’m not taking any bets. While the diarrhoea has stopped, I still feel dreadful. Mainly nausea, and I suppose it’ll take my GI tract a little while to settle down

The more I look at it, though, the more complicated life without dairy gets. For example, I get through a lot of Smash, which contains milk powder, as do alternative products, so the only alternative is boiling spuds or making chips (alternatively there’s frozen chips or roasties, but portion control is easier with Smash). Eliminating butter isn’t hard – eliminating every trace of dairy is – the bloody stuff is everywhere. And there is nothing better for frying fish than a mix of olive oil and butter – with oil alone the caramelisation you get with butter just doesn’t happen. It does explain, though, why that lousy Tesco  “smoked” haddock I had last week made me so ill – it was the butter, not the fish.

Searching supermarket websites for dairy-free products isn’t easy. Rather than list alternatives to products that normally contain dairy, they list every bloody thing that’s NEVER, in the history of the world, contained dairy as well. And in the case of Sainsbury’s, you can’t even trust their list as, bizarrely, it contains cows’ milk! A hell of a lot of it, too.

The problem with that is that some trusting soul might buy the stuff thinking it’s safe, as you can buy milk in which the lactose has been processed into a digestible form, so such confusion might easily arise. I’d email Sainsbury’s and point this out to them, but I know from experience it’d be a waste of time.

Incidentally, Alpro sweetened soya milk is now labelled as Alpro Original – useful if, like me, you’re hunting for it.

And while, as I said, I have no idea what triggered this intolerance, one thing is a cast-iron certainty – I really don’t need this shit!

It’s said that into each life a little rain must fall but, while I generally deplore  self-pity, I’m fucking drowning here…

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15 thoughts on “It seems I’m now lactose-intolerant…

    • Not in this instance though, Leigh – I haven’t been able to lie down for 2 years. Nausea’s a permanent fixture, too. Always best to lie on your left side though. The oesophagus enters the stomach on the right, so lying on that side can flood it if the sphincter’s weak – heartburn at best, acid reflux at worst.

  1. My commiserations but if it’s any consolation it isn’t always triggered by anything, you just run out of the ability to make the right enzymes.

    Some tips:
    Imodium useless because there is nothing actually wrong, you just can’t digest milk sugar. It has to come out somehow.

    Try lactase enzyme tablets, available on the net. For some people they work perfectly (not me sadly)

    The more cooked the milk (ie in cake) the less likely it is to hurt.

    The more mature (ie Parmesan) ibid. and if it does you may have a casein intolerance as well.

    If you can have nut milks, they all taste better than soy milk. Almond is my choice. Makes great porridge.

    I gave up on all the butter substitutes and use helman’s mayo on my (gluten free) bread.

    Good luck and just ask if you want more suggestions. I’ve been milk free for years, but my partner had to go milk free a few years ago and I remember the frustration.

  2. Codeine phosphate in different forms, calms down below. Lansoprazole and Gabapentin limits the upchuck. Tried the elimination processes at the same time (couple of years ago) as having that sensor thing lowered down my throat for a day. Acid became unbearable, top to bottom. My solution ended up being more milk products, which resulted in the uneasy truce I live with, all day, every day. No food and only enough liquid for tablet swallowing, is the emergency default setting, when everything goes pear shaped. It takes two and a half days of that, to settle back down, to what is now normal.
    My sympathies and please keep up the good work, Ron.

    • I daily exceed the max for codeine by about 50%, which causes chronic constipation – not this time though. I seem to be going in the right direction now, though.

  3. the long life sweetened soya the own brand ones taste nice in Sainsburys which is the cheapest at 59p the orange and white cheap one, in Morrisons its in a blue carton as in Tesco but they all have the same tastes as the original alpro one! not that awful improved flavour one that is revolting! I dont envy you the hunt for products without it quadruples your shopping time! Good luck to you! :)

    • So far, dairy-free spread is garbage, whether soya or sunflower.

      Seen so many mixed reports about Alpro – some people swear by it, others swear at it, and about evenly divided – that I think I’ll go with the easy option and take a calcium supplement (I’ve already got D3).

      Almost impossible finding ready meals that don’t have dairy in some form, though. Might have to make my own – it’ll still make life easier on the whole.

      • I seem to have accidentally sent multiple posts, but the key thing is: Do you want me to check ready meals for you? I have to do it for me anyway.

  4. You are so right about dairy being everywhere, we are very dependent on it as a nation. Watch out for whey powder, it’s often hidden away in there. I got diagnosed with IBS at 23, and 5 years ago found out that lactose was one of the triggers. :( Hospital nutritionists told me my body ‘should’ be able to handle 150 ml of milk without a reaction – not so. Everyone is different. I paid for a year’s membership with these people – http://www.theibsnetwork.org/Default.asp – headed by a gastroenterologist who really knows his stuff. Their self-care plan was hugely informative, although there is a bit of psych stuff in there too. I found their suggestion to drink water with every meal very helpful. Didn’t renew after the first year though.

    Lactofree do an edible hard cheese, plus milks, yoghurts etc. Not guaranteed to be 100% lactose-free however. I bought a soya milk maker which was truly awesome. http://www.wholisticresearch.com/shop/home/m/Shop/id/788/page/1/ Seems to be unavailable, but there are others. It also made nut, bean and rice milks, and came with a free tofu maker. Can’t use it now because I can’t lift a jug full of milk.

    One thing though, when you have IBS, you have a very delicate, reactive gastric system, and problems can occur at any point along that huge length of tubing, at any time, for all different reasons. I think mine was worsened by chemo and the daily mix of toxic meds. Your meds may be making you more sensitive to everything.

    • IBS was one of the early symptoms of my ME, starting in 1986, and I exhausted the whole IBS pharmacopoeia – nothing worked.

      In the late 80s Sainsbury’s introduced a German live bio-yoghurt. I had a couple of tubs and felt a bit better, but it wore off quickly. So I started to eat it in industrial quantities, a couple of kilos a day and, over the course of a few months my IBS went away.

      Stopped the yoghurt – by then I was sick of it – and IBS came sneaking back. Back up to 2 kilos a day and it went away and, except for occasional flare-ups, easily treated with more live yoghurt (Rachel’s these days), it’s stayed gone until Christmas. Stocked up with yoghurt, had one tub, and started vomiting and diarrhoea. Ditto with cheese, and with Clover.

      I cut out dairy and it started to settle down, but had diarrhoea again this morning, though I think that might have been the fish pie I had the night before last as a test (butter and milk).

      I’ve been expecting my system to rebel against my meds for some years; with a minimum of 16 drugs a day, something has to give at some point.

  5. Hi Ron,

    In terms of ready meals etc, have you tried Innocent Veg Pots? I think they are fantastic quality and very filling.

    Sorry to hear about the lactose issue, I agree above regarding the nut milk – the almond one is good.

    • Hi Freya,

      Actually, Veg Pots are pretty much unavailable here. Tesco have just one flavour, ditto Ocado, Asda and Sainsbury’s nothing.

  6. I have a severe allergy to milk products, it wasn’t until I moved in with my partner and we always ate the same meals that he discovered dairy products were triggering his IBS. I have to avoid every tiny bit of dairy but as his is an intolerance rather than allergy, he finds staying away from anything creamy, milky or cheesy is enough. The supermarkets all do their own brand soya milk which is a lot cheaper than Alpro. I like Alpro yoghurts & Swedish glacé ice cream. Most mass produced meals seem to contain milk products, my partner ends up cooking most meals from scratch (I’m disabled).

    • I’m still not certain what’s wrong with me. I’ve had a few meals with cheese or cream, and one with both, with no problems. I was slowly getting back to normal until last night, when I had a bottle of beer. Now I’m back where I was a couple of weeks ago.

      So beer’s clearly out, but it’s not the trigger as I haven’t had any for months. All very strange. And tiresome!

      I’m getting on OK with ready-meals. Not able to cook at the moment, and only occasionally when I can, but if I can get enough spoons together for a couple of hours in the kitchen I can make half a dozen of my own ready-meals.

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