Oh Lord, Grant Me A Second Chance at Lactose (and Gluten) Tolerance

This post has been written as a part of ChicagoNow’s “Blogapalooz-Hour: Volume XXXV.” A flood of posts are going live tonight at 10 p.m. sharp from a number of ChicagoNow bloggers because a “Blogapalooz-Hour” is a blitz to publish a post in 60 minutes or less, so here is my response to the following prompt selected by ChicagoNow Community Manager Jimmy Greenfield:

“Write about something in your life you’d like a second chance at.”

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression, so I thought for a while about various meetings I’ve had with various people that I may have wanted to do over. Should I have let Justin Bieber beat me at Pac Man? Should I have asked tightrope-walking-daredevil Nik Wallenda to give me a tightrope-walking tutorial live and in person? Should I have convinced Miranda Lambert to let me play in her backup band after I facilitated her meet-and-greet at Country Jam in 2010? These things I’ll never really know, but something I do know is that I want to do the second semester of my senior year of college over again. This is why.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a rainy April evening in 2011, and I had just consumed a chocolate frosty and double cheeseburger from Wendy’s with pure delight. Twenty minutes after my last bite, I knew something was wrong…and spent the next twenty minutes in the bathroom trying to figure it out. I figured out a few short weeks of testing later that I was lactose intolerant. This was a harsh blow for a girl who grew up drinking iced milk with her dad after pickup basketball games.
Fast forward to 2014. I was consuming 2-3 Red Bulls per week because I felt fatigued all the time. I knew dairy was a problem for me, but something else was wrong–after two weeks of gluten-free living, I knew the gluten had to go, too. As  soon as it did, I was alive again!
So. As painful as it is to admit, I am lactose intolerant and gluten “sensitive.” But why? I have spent the past five years trying to figure out my dietary deficiencies, and have come to the following conclusion: Because my twin sister is neither lactose intolerant nor gluten sensitive, it can’t be “nature;” we grew up in the same household and ate basically all of the same meals until we went to college. However, during second semester senior year of college, I “studied abroad” in Nashville by myself, and had to buy all of my own meals for the first time (my college had some of the best-ranked food in the nation, so I ate fairly well on a meal plan during my time on campus). However, when I was released into the wild to shop and fend for myself, my fridge and pantry was stocked with:
  • Coke Zero
  • Rockstar Energy Drink
  • Red Bull
  • Milk
  • Kraft mac n cheese
  • Tyson’s chicken nuggets
  • Frozen pizza
  • Microwave oatmeal

Keeping these things in mind–that I was basically poisoning myself with food fit for nobody who wanted to survive past the age of 25 and averaging 5-6 hours of sleep per night from January – April 2011–I know the truth. I want to do that semester over, and so do my intestines. Today, I am a different girl–homemade meals with plenty of vegetables and fresh ingredients are served most nights of the week, and I stay far away from servings of gluten and lactose (view my blog post “Three Gluten- and Dairy- Free Recipes for Carnivores” for some delicious gluten- and dairy-free options). I do make rare exceptions to my lactose- and gluten-free diet: If it’s Lou Malnati’s pizza or the Minnesota State Fair, I eat the food and endure the stomach pains, fatigue that makes me feel like I could fall over and sleep for three years at a moment’s notice, or any other onslaught of unhappy physical side effects that may come with eating foods that don’t jibe with my needs (or lack thereof). One thing I have noticed about my “condition” is that it seems to be improving with time: I hold onto hope that my college roommate, who suffered from lactose intolerance during college, is now “healed” and can have lactose again, and count myself blessed that I do not have to be checked into a hospital when I eat a trace of gluten like lots of people who suffer from intolerance or celiac’s disease do.

I sometimes wonder why this “intolerance” and “sensitivity” had to happen to me, and, thanks to this blog post prompt, wonder what life may have been like if I could do my second semester of college over again and actually eaten healthy foods during my second semester of senior year in Nashville. But, as the eternal optimist that I am, while living with these “conditions,” I’ve learned to be “joyful in all circumstances” and to “count my trials as joy“–let’s face it, the daily miracle is that the more time I have to spend in dietary discomfort, the more I can talk with Jesus about how I’m identifying with Job like never before… But I still pray that the Lord would grant me a second chance at lactose and gluten tolerance.

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