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It seems I’m now lactose-intolerant…

Posted Jan 21 2013 8:18am

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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