food

"I've gone gluten and lactose free. And everyone hates me for it."

There’s no more cheese in my life.

No more dairy in general. No more milkshakes or coffees, unless they’re made with soy milk. No more Camembert (and I used to be able to eat a wheel of that stuff in one sitting alone). No more heavy lasagnes and no more ice-cream.

And that’s not all. I’m not eating gluten, either. I’m buying gluten-free pasta, loitering in the section of the supermarket with the different-coloured packaging. I’m avoiding big, buttered bread rolls and cakes and crackers, muffins and macaroons and even chicken schnitzel.

That’s right. I’ve gone lactose and gluten free. And when I tell people, it’s like I’m announcing that I’ve suddenly taken up smoking crack.

Just as a heads up – none of this sh*t was by choice. I haven’t willingly decided to make my life harder by choosing not to consume two elements that seem to be present in about 75% of food options. I didn’t just wake up one morning last week and say to myself, “You know what’d be really fun? Giving up gluten and lactose! Damn, that’d be cool.”

No. What actually happened: I went to the doctor about six times in the space of less than nine months, complaining about digestive issues.

These issues came on relatively quickly earlier this year after a bout of sickness, and changed my life almost immediately. And not in a good way.

I now triple-guess everything I put in my mouth in case it's going to make me sick. I never try new or spicy food and I mostly stick to bland stuff that won't irritate my stomach. I am consistently anxious in situations where I don't have immediate access to a bathroom. Long car trips have become my idea of a nightmare and I generally don't eat anything at all before them.

It's not a way to live. Not at all.

People are claiming they're gluten-free when they're really... not. At all. Listen to the Mamamia Out Loud team discuss. Post continues after audio.

My doctor tried a few different treatment options. She was very hesitant to cut anything out of my diet, but else nothing worked. Combined with my medical history, and the history of that of my direct family members, she decided that this is the best way forward.

Tests were done. Food diaries were kept. Lactose went first, and gluten was next to go. Fructose is still safe, although that’s the other main thing that causes digestive issues in people.

I was sad for a minute when I realised what I'd be missing out on. And then I realised that just by eating a bit smarter, I could make my life shuffle completely back to normal mode.

I could get back to a point where I’m no longer spending a Sunday night in bed, doubled over with stomach pains, trying to work out what’s causing me to go through so much pain.

I’m also very happy that I’m going to be able to calm everything in my body down a bit - as I was on the fast-track to causing so many other potential problems and/or diseases for which much heavier medication would have been required.

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But the reactions from people? Hideous.

Here are just some of the things that have been said to me by both friends and acquaintances over the last few weeks:

“Oh, I’m lactose-intolerant too. But I just live my life anyway. Don’t worry about it!”

Yeah... way to just disregard the fact that it's not that simple. There are actual medical issues involved.

“We're going to have to do that pizza without cheese, Zoe has decided she’s lactose-intolerant.”

There are lots of decisions I make in a day. I decide to get up in the morning, I decide to wear a certain pair of wedges . I don’t *decide* to suddenly respond very unhappily to anything with a certain type of sugar/protein in it. If that were in my control, I’d decide to definitely eat ALL the lactose and gluten, because damn I’d love to demolish a wheel of Camembert again without consequences. WITH crackers.

“Well that’s an interesting way of going on a diet and losing weight.”

THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT AAAARGH.

“Oh, I hate people like you!” (said jovially - as if that makes it better)

Am I really ruining people’s lives by ordering a steak and salad instead of the cheesy pasta? I mean, there are certain people I hate too. Pedophiles. People who light bushfires deliberately. But I don't think anyone deserves hate just because they eat a particular way due to food intolerance.

(Upon asking whether something is gluten or dairy-free in a restaurant or cafe) "Oh yeah, it's probably fine."

Probably isn't really good enough. And when I'm spending hours running back and forth between a bathroom later... I'll think of you.

Seriously - I understand that gluten and dairy-free have gotten a bad rap in society lately, especially because there are people out there who give them up willynilly without actually having a good reason for it.

But I hate being judged and treated like someone who is doing some kind of crazy fad diet because they're trying to be skinny or whatever. I hate the fact that no-one takes me seriously unless I'm willing to go through my entire medical history (which is rarely an appropriate topic of conversation at the dinner table).

No one would ever treat me this way if I was, say, allergic to nuts. But the minute I'm lactose & gluten free? It's a free-for-all.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in this corner with my gluten-and-dairy-free cookies, not sharing with any of the haters.

Have you ever developed a food intolerance and suffered for it?

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