Lactose Tolerance and the Modern Girl

My stomach has been hurting lately. A. LOT. All the time, actually. It’s not ulcers, because – despite an ever-present worry about finances and family and career and friendships – I’m honestly not that stressed out. And it’s certainly not all the crunches I haven’t been doing, and since according to my own lack of physiological knowledge and lack of interest in considering any other possibilities than the aforementioned, I have come to the conclusion – perhaps more intuitively than I’m giving myself credit for – that my body is trying to tell me something. I know, I know – DUH. It’s not exactly an earth-shattering diagnosis. But, it’s one that feels like it’s worth listening to. My body is trying to tell me that something that I’m ingesting (evidently with some regularity, as my stomach hurts pretty much all day every day) ain’t exactly its best friend. And since my body can only tell me so much without actual words, it’s up to me to read the writing on the wall: it’s time for a change.

The reason I feel this particular epiphany about my body’s method of communication with me is because it’s literally the first time I’ve ever felt it. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a pain or unsettled feeling that I’ve attributed to the connection between lifestyle habits and physiological health. Again, I’m aware that I’m a little behind jumping on the bandwagon with this – but I also believe that most people are skeptics about most subjects until something prompts their own personal come-to-Jesus about the thing. And this feels like mine. I’ve been eating poorly lately (i.e., if it was my last meal and I had to decide between pizza or Mexican food, I would have last-minute decision anxiety up until the moment I died and would spend the rest of eternity wishing I’d chosen the other) but no more poorly than I’ve been eating for about…3 years. So the fact that just now I am feeling that something is wrong means less that it’s “finally catching up with me” and more that I’m finally in a place to recognize my body’s needs and provide this vehicle of my existence with much more love and attention than I’ve ever offered it. My quest now: to discover the source of my discomfort, and find a way to work through it around it to emerge a healthier, more balanced individual with much greater awareness of my physiological needs.

I think the culprit here may be dairy, and here’s why: I’m Scottish. And at the end of the day (if you trace back far enough), I’m related to dear old Rob Roy MacGregor, the rebel Scot and failed cattleman of the 18th century. History has it that Rob Roy, trying to make an honest living as a cattleman, ultimately defaulted on a loan to increase his herd because of a conniving Scot who took his money and herd, leaving Rob Roy and family out in the cold. Legend has it that Rob Roy retreated to the rocky highlands of Scotland, where, without cattle, he and a band of marauders waged war against the duke who ousted him for many years until he was finally pardoned.

HOWEVER, the point here (yes, there is one) is that all the many years Rob Roy spent scavenging without the advent of dairy in the highlands (and the many outlawed Scots who followed his footsteps for years after) produced a generation of children who were, in essence, lactose intolerant – which then continued on and on and on, until hundreds of years later when the availability of dairy became daily staple instead of a luxury, and people’s digestive systems became used to it again. Lactose intolerance is actually the norm in Scottish history – it’s lactose tolerance that’s not in our heritage. And as my day consists of cream in my coffee, cereal for breakfast, SlimFasts (when I’m trying to “get serious”) for lunch and condiments on my dinner meals that usually include dairy (ranch sauce, sour cream, mayonnaise) and more or less as much cheese as I can possibly consume without throwing up, I think this is the place to start.

I hope this isn’t the case. I sincerely hope that it’s something else miserable and easily given up, such as…beets. But I have a sneaking suspicion that’s not it (since I avoid beets like agoraphobics avoid the open prairie). And think of all the cheese I might miss out on…the thought is practically unbearable. Even so…I’m willing to explore the option of eliminating this potentially offensive substance from my diet, because I’ve never really stopped to give my body a voice, and you know what? When I really listen, it has some pretty important things to say.

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