Unfortunately, not only are us Asians more prone to getting flushed cheeks after drinking alcohol (“Asian glow,” discussed in a previous blog post called “Party Safe: Alcohol Intolerance“), but we also tend to lack an enzyme called lactase, which is needed to break down the lactose obtained from food. In short, this means that Asians are more likely to be lactose intolerant, unable to digest milk, yogurt, and fro-yo efficiently.
There is a reason for why we have to watch our other friends wolf down buckets of ice cream knowing that we can’t do the same. Historically, Asians and Native Americans did not consume much dairy, so their bodies never had to adjust to metabolize lactose. As a result, when those of us who are lactose intolerant consume products that contain lactose, a sugar (formed from glucose and galactose) found mainly in dairy products, our body are unable to break it down completely. This causes undigested lactose to travel through our digestive system and just sit there, causing things like bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and gas. Charming, I know.
Lactose intolerance can vary quite a bit in severity. For example, I can eat roughly two scoops of ice cream and feel fine, but I have friends who can’t even have a proper cereal and milk for breakfast. This sometimes makes dining out or even cooking difficult, as even a grab of a Go-Gurt or a slice of pizza becomes virtually impossible. Sometimes, I simply just want to grab a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and spoon my way to the bottom. That would, however, result in me enduring hours of regret due to borderline unbearable stomach aches.
So, for those who are puzzled as to why their stomachs hurt or why frequent trips to the restroom are necessary after consuming dairy products, you may be lactose intolerant! And the only way to completely avoid these symptoms, sadly, is to avoid lactose-containing products. Nowadays, there are alternatives to milk such as Lactaid and soy or almond milk. Ice cream can also be made out of soy (an invention from heaven, although it does taste different at first). We do have to watch what we eat, but we can still get to enjoy food!
Article by Jessica Kuo
Feature Image Source: The Spruce