Lactose Intolerance [ lak-tohs in-tol-er-uh ns ] / noun — a digestive disorder caused by the inability to digest lactose, a main carbohydrate in dairy products, which can lead to a negative effect on quality of life. A very common disorder, with some groups estimated to have a 79% rate of affliction.
It was a lovely, brisk Sunday evening in Seattle. Autumn was imminent, so the leaves had recently shifted to a more varied palette of rustic earth tones. I was out with friends and following an overpriced dinner, we decided to get some dessert to end the night. As we walked along the streets of Capitol Hill, we came across an iconic staple of Seattle, Molly Moons. The rest of the group shuffled into the serpentine line while I said my goodbyes, citing my aversion to the treat like some kind of ice cream iconoclast.
Hi. My name is Nikhil, and I’m lactose intolerant.
I was not always like this. In fact, I frequently enjoyed pizza and ice cream in my early adolescence (maybe more than I should have). During a fateful week in Summer 2018 however, I decided to experiment with cutting out dairy. I found myself at a crossroads after this week. I could no longer consume dairy without wrenching stomach pain that would frequently keep me up through the night. It was a rough period as I could no longer enjoy the childhood nostalgia tinged treats like I used to. I was able to somewhat satisfy my cravings with dairy alternatives like oat milk, vegan cheese, and nut based desserts, but nothing filled the void left by dairy.
Fast-forward to the middle of the following year and I was in Singapore, a country where it seems that the vast majority of the population may be somewhat intolerant to lactose. This study from 1970 found that from their sample of 98 subjects, all 22 of the group over the age of 15 were not fully tolerant to lactose, with tolerance decreasing with age. With this being the case, it’s not a surprise that I found this bad boy on the shelf of the local pharmacy. I was curious and so I did my research, picked up a bottle, and started taking the magical panacea to my dairy issues. Dairy Care is touted as a once-a-day cure to those suffering from lactose intolerance. Originally a side project created by a doctor to cure his wife’s ever worsening lactose intolerance, the miracle capsule contains the necessary probiotics and lactase enzymes to gift one the ability to consume dairy again.
Just as quickly as my lactose intolerance had developed, it soon vanished. I was able to eat dairy again (up to a… fuzzy limit) and the floodgates were opened. I soon found myself gorging on more and more desserts (it seems that milk based desserts are the most common kind of dessert) and my self control was almost non-existent. After all, I was making up for lost time, wasn’t I? After a multi-month sugar and milk fueled bender (okay maybe I’m being a bit dramatic), I decided that I had my fill and would resume a lifestyle of dairy with discretion.
This experience brought up an interesting idea — the notion that constraints, rather than stifling you, instead exist to empower and liberate you. This concept confused me when it first crossed my awareness but its value is there, nested in threads of self-discipline and welcomed by stoics and buddhists alike. There are simply too many options in life (especially in today’s technologically hyperconnected society) to be able to pursue all of them. This means tapering down your day-to-day to a set of things that truly give you long-term satisfaction. For me, this meant saying goodbye to dairy.
I wrote this whole long-winded and tangentially connected post to arrive at this basic tldr: intentionally putting limitations in your life is something that in underrated. We all get swept up in the chaos of life in varying degrees, but having a base assumption that constraints are there to empower rather than suppress you is is something that I think can provide peace of mind like nothing else can.