When you are diagnosed with a dairy allergy, your world takes on a whole different shape and color. Milk protein, whey, and their derivatives are in a lot of foods you would not normally assume they would be in, as well as medicines and hygeine products (whey is used in some toothpastes for whitening). Where before I bought things based on their reputation and usefulness, I now buy things based on whether or not they will harm me, even unintentionally. And my most recent discovery? Vitamin Water Zero derives their calcium and magnesium from lactic acid, which as a milk derivative and thus makes me sick. Who the hell thinks to label read a bottle of water? I mean, it’s water!
My allergy is severe enough that my allergist told me under no circumstances should I leave the house without an EPI pen and benadryl on me at all times. This allergy seems so ridiculous at times, but sometimes it allows me to be mischievous, like telling the wait staff you want a meat burger slathered in bacon with vegan cheese on it or you want a meat pizza with vegan cheese. So there is that. We also found that I can tolerate sheep and goat’s milk based products, which has been huge to allow me to eat a lot of foods I haven’t had in a year – like Cacio e Pepe. (I also get to yell at Val and Kristin a lot when they complain about feeling ill since one is also allergic to dairy and the other is lactose intolerant, allowing me to lord over my dairy free righteousness.)
There are of course things that I miss. A lot. Like ice cream. Sour cream. Good sharp cheddar. Italian food. Malts. Now that I know the reason why I’ve always felt like crap for most of my life has mostly to do with my dairy consumption, removing it from my diet means that on the whole, I feel a lot better. Huzzah! But while I’m extremely thankful for all the vegans in my life who have helped me obtain some of what I now miss, there is no substituting good old fashioned cow milk. I also don’t really care what anyone says, vegan or not, you simply cannot substitute the creaminess of a good sharp cheddar with some soy and nut based concoction. Anyone who tries to sell you that bridge in Nebraska is a fucking liar.
Despite the label reading, and missing out of things, and carrying an EPI pen with me at all times, it isn’t these things that cause me the most frustration. Suprisingly, it’s the fact I have to constantly defend or explain my allergy to people who think that reading WebMD qualifies them to be medical experts: No, I’m not lactose intolerant, I’m allergic to milk and can go into anaphylactic shock. People who are lactose intolerant have digestion issues, people who are allergic have digestion issues, breathing problems, hives, and other fun maladies. Yes, I can eat eggs. Yes, I can eat beef. No, I probably can’t eat $X because $X has milk and/or whey in it. And so forth, and so on. I’ve had strangers tell me I was wrong about my allergy, or give entirely unasked for advice when my allergy is brought up.
Honestly? I don’t get why they feel justified in sharing their Wikipedia knowledge with me when they are almost always wrong, and secondly, I dont’ get why people always seem to think they know better than someone with decades of experience on this particular topic or who lives with it day by day. My allergy is potentially life threatening. Please do not dismiss this as being trivial just because Kathie Lee and Hoda had a nutritional expert on the TODAY show supposedly debunking allergies based on some non-peer reviewed research provided by Billy Bob’s consortium and tackle company.
If you don’t know, ask. Just don’t assume.