I’m a naturally lucky person, but I was born with a curse. One that would divide my Irish family for years.
“How could this happen?” They would ask. “Where did this come from?” For I was a changeling babe, one born with an intolerance to lactose–a staple in the Irish diet. My intolerance meant anytime I consumed too much dairy, my intestines wrestled inside my gut, banging against the walls of my bladder; a unique and horrible experience. As a kid, that meant puking a few times a month until one of the many doctors I saw realized that dairy and I don’t mix.
Now, this intolerance has ebbed and flowed throughout my 22 years of life. From the age of about 5 to 14 it was very not good, but then as I entered college, and ate more ice cream than I should, that intolerance seemed to fade away. I thought I was in the clear. I was a fool.
In January of 2017, I went to Ireland for a few weeks, and ate toast with real Irish butter. Drank gallons of tea with real Irish whole milk. After about a week of consuming far too much dairy, the inevitable happened. I won’t go into detail but the walls at my Aunt’s house are thin and puking is loud.
Being lactose intolerant and traveling is a trying experience. Long flights make my stomach upset, and then adding dairy to the mix just ends in disaster. When I lived in Italy for 6 months I had no idea if they had dairy free milk–still have no idea– because I couldn’t read the labels. In Ireland I never even checked at the grocery stores, nor asked at the cafes/pubs if they had lactose free milk or dishes. That was my big mistake, I didn’t do research before leaving. And being lactose intolerant and failing to avoid dairy is a dangerous thing, not only for my organs, but also for my stability.
I’ve learned since then, and below are a few tips for traveling when you’re lactose intolerant.
1. Bring Zantac. Lost and lots of zantac (or any other antacid) Because we all know avoiding dairy whilst in a different country (especially one where you don’t speak the language) is an almost impossible task. So it’s better to be prepared and try and soothe your stomach before the midnight grumblies attack.
2. Do research on the types of food in the country you’re visiting that are dairy free. This is a bit like traveling when you have other food allergies, or have dietary restrictions (vegan/vegetarian). You have to plan ahead. Know what restaurants cater to your needs. If you're better than me you already know this.
3. Bring your own food. If you have the ability to bring your own food, why not cut out the middle man and make your own meals–if you have ability. It's always easier to stay healthy when you've brought the thing you're going to consume. This is a harder one for traveling to different continents with strict rules for immigration and customs.
4. Pray. Pray for you bum. Because if you're anything like me you take too many chances with dairy, and the world of food allergies is a cruel one.
How do you deal with food allergies or sickness abroad? Share your tips with me in the comments below.
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