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Life Lately: My New Non-Dairy (ish) Life

Happy Summer, friends! I guess it’s not officially the summer season yet, but we’re practically there. As I write you this post, it’s Ray’s and my first year wedding anniversary! We’ve gone through a lot of changes this past year:

  • Ray graduated from medical school and started his first year of residency in general surgery
  • We settled – and are still settling into – our home
  • I started my business: still can’t quite believe it!

We’ve been learning how to adjust to his work schedule, my growing workload, and trying to squeeze in quality time together in between all of it! Luckily, this past month, we were able to take a weeklong vacation in Portland, Maine.

Good Food, Great Company, Salty Air

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I love sharing my life with you through Instagram Stories – if you’re on Instagram, you may have gotten a firsthand account of the sights we saw and foods we ate. Upon arrival, we were welcomed with a lobster dinner from our friends, Liz and Dan, whom we stayed with for the week. Two lobsters in my belly on day one. [Oh. So THIS is how the trip is going to go!]

Ray and I also tried raw oysters for the first time – verdict: delicious! But also a little confusing…the taste is good, but then again you don’t really “taste” it for that long since raw oysters aren’t something you chew as much as regular food. Hmm…

We had (more than) our fair share of baked goods: donuts, croissants, and cookies. The photo of the donuts above was from The Holy Donut, and the flavors included (starting from the bottom left) chocolate cinnamon sugar, pomegranate, coffee brandy, old fashioned, maple, and triple berry (my favorite). We thought they were donuts made with potato flour, but The Holy Donut uses MASHED potatoes, how cool is that?!

We went to a bunch of other restaurants that I’ll list here, in case you ever find yourself in Portland! Each of them was so incredibly delicious, and I’d go back in a heartbeat:

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Portland wasn’t all about the food. Okay, maybe it was. But the outdoors in Maine is a must-see! Throughout the course of the week, Ray and I went on a few walks and one hike. I also squeezed in a couple of runs, and we walked around the neighborhood with Liz and Dan. The public places we explored were:

  • Kettle Cove – beautiful beach area, great place to have a picnic (which we did!)
  • Bradbury Mountain State Park – short hike, not strenuous, gorgeous view at the top!
  • Mackworth Island – leisurely 1.25-mile walk around the island, great views throughout
  • Old Port – downtown, walked by the water for the views! Tons of delicious restaurants, too.

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My New Non-Dairy (ish) Life

During our vacation in Portland, it was declared to be my first dairy-free week. Why? Sadly, I think I’ve developed a lactose intolerance. I had it when I was younger, but grew out of it after some time. Flash forward to more than 20 years later, and it’s hit me again.

Lactose intolerance occurs when the small intestine doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme (lactase) needed to break down and digest milk sugar (lactose). The result: food moves into the colon instead of being processed, and the normal bacteria are not happy campers when they see those foods (source)! Hence, the signs and symptoms that I ignored for the first month: cramping, feeling bloated, and GI issues.

Looking back to even a month ago, my body was definitely waving the “Stop having lactose!” signs. I had low-grade GI issues on the regular and felt crampy after having too much cheese or dairy. I just thought my body was being weird and ignored it (PSA: don’t do that, haha). The symptoms got worse and worse until I finally realized that I might be intolerant (dun dun DUUUUUN!).

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Sadly, I could only eat one bite of this ice cream cookie sandwich at Eventide, but I did eat the cookie pieces 😉

What I Plan to Do About It

So, what’s a lactose intolerant foodie supposed to do, especially if her favorite foods are Siggi’s yogurt and real, creamy, dairy-filled ice cream? Besides not having it three times a day like I used to, here is my game plan. It’ll be trial and error, but it’s based on general recommendations from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Eat and drink smaller servings of dairy, because smaller the serving, the less likely it is to cause GI issues
  • Enjoy my Siggi’s with other foods, which slows the digestive process and may lessen symptoms
  • Experiment with different types of dairy products, because not all products have the same amount of lactose
  • Incorporate more dairy-free cooking into our lives, i.e. using nut milk, cashew cream sauces, coconut cream and milk
  • Use lactase enzyme tablets, which I’ve already tried (and it sort-of works). Over-the-counter tablets or drops contain the lactase enzyme and, so far, have helped me digest cheesy dinners and ice cream, with only very slight discomfort afterward.

Roll With the Changes

Change is hard (i.e. my dairy dilemma), especially when you’re essentially forced to (or deal with the painful consequences, ha!). Rather than being sad and upset that I can’t enjoy the foods I used to (or at least as much), I’m trying to be as flexible and disciplined as I can. That means saying “no” to the yummy Jeni’s ice cream we have in the fridge and opting for dairy-free options at restaurants. Yes, I could bring lactase pills with me everywhere I go, but I think it’ll be kinda fun (?) to see how I can incorporate more dairy-free eating into my life.

Let’s chat!

  • Are you, or someone you know (besides me) lactose intolerant?
  • What would you miss the most if you couldn’t have dairy?
  • Any tips for me, dairy-free peeps?

By Jess

Jess is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and yoga teacher. She enjoys sharing her passion and enthusiasm for health and fitness with friends, family, clients, and readers.

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5 comments

  • Ashley | Fit Mitten Kitchen

    June 6, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Your trip to Maine looked so pretty!! Those donuts, ugh. But glad to hear you’re being positive about the dairy dilemma! I think it’s a good idea to look at it as fun – there really are so may awesome DF options and recipes out there now!
    Ashley | Fit Mitten Kitchen recently posted…Easy Chicken Kebabs with Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice [Whole30]My Profile

  • Sarah Katherine Wyland

    June 6, 2017 at 10:12 am

    I was also lactose intolerant as a kid and “grew out of it” too. I don’t quite buy that I’ve ever grown out of it though. I get the awful bloating/cramping/GI issues after a lot of cheese as well. I’ve noticed I can eat things like hard cheese and be fine, but, say, pizza or melted nacho cheese (you know, the good stuff…) not so much. I too try not to east as much dairy. Frozen Yogurt is also the devil, which is so sad, because I LOVE it.

    I’m also pretty sure I have a legitimate issue with gluten, but giving up dairy AND cookies… Man that’s hard…

  • Ange // Cowgirl Runs

    June 6, 2017 at 11:14 am

    What a beautiful trip to Maine!!
    I love your attitude about going dairy free. Sometimes are bodies are just plain old silly 🙂 I don’t have dairy issues, but cows milk grosses me out, so I tend to stick to dairy free options for that reason.
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Hello June! My Goals for the MonthMy Profile

  • Erin @ Erin’s Inside Job

    June 6, 2017 at 11:30 am

    I think I had the opposite happen to me – I had a weird thing w dairy and now it seems to have calmed down. I still feel kind of gross and bubbly if I have too much, but it’s not terrible. Here’s to hoping you’ll grow out of it AGAIN and come have ice cream w me 🙂
    Erin @ Erin’s Inside Job recently posted…Life Lately: May 2017My Profile

  • Ivanna

    June 7, 2017 at 8:37 am

    I am also lactose intolerant, have been as long as I can remember. I think you are doing the right thing by simply cutting back. That is pretty much what I did too.

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