I’ve tasted the forbidden fruit. Or in my case, forbidden milk, cheese, yogurt and most other dairy-intensive commodities, and that’s what makes this whole thing so hard. Allow me to share my story. This past June, I was dramatically self-diagnosed with lactose intolerance.
It was the recipe for the perfect summer: the days were long, the weather warm, but unfortunately, my stomach bloated. As it was when I tried getting creative with the Thanksgiving gravy, one wrong ingredient tarnished the whole dish. Side note: baking soda is NOT an appropriate substitute for flour — I know this now.
Anyway, I decided to do the unthinkable. I cut dairy from my diet for a week to see if I felt a difference, and I did! This might sound like good news to any of you dairy-processing mortals, but alas, my nightmare had come to life. I’ve heard this horror story before. Two of my four older siblings developed a similar lactose disenchantment during their college years, so the odds weren’t necessarily in my favor. They also weren’t not in my favor (yeah, I’ve taken statistics) but I thought I was in the clear.
The development of lactose tolerance was an evolutionary process that required considerable selective pressure; until several thousand years ago, the enzyme that processes lactose in humans turned off once a person entered adulthood. Today, 65 percent of the global population cannot digest lactose hitch-free. Unfortunately for me and my genetically and geographically ill-fated friends, however, lactose intolerance only affects 25 percent of Americans, and is most prevalent in people of East Asian descent, affecting over 90 percent of adults in some of these communities.
Was I just born into the wrong society? Are those of us who have to pay a dollar extra to add soy milk to our lattes destined to fade into the blackness, our wallets empty and stomachs churning in distress?