I am a Vegetarian​ and I gave up Dairy for Two weeks!

Bhai, if you are a vegetarian- Paneer is BAE. Correct?

 

My parents were hardcore vegetarians, meat was never cooked in our house growing up, and hence I am a vegetarian too. I am not averse to meats ( I have tasted most of them – occasionally taking a bite of butter chicken etc) and don’t mind eggs in baked goods, pasta, bread etc. Meat curries taste FREAKING AMAZING, but I have never gotten myself to become a non-vegetarian ( or even just a chicken-netarian), because a) massive mental block to eating flesh b) veggie food in India has a TON OF OPTIONS in all cuisines and all taste awesome.

 

For the past 25 years of my life, my main protein sources have always been:

  • Paneer- 80%
  • Milk- 5%
  • Curd- 1%
  • Soybean ( I ABSOLUTELY HATE IT, but what to do?)- 1%
  • Beans, dals, broccoli – 3%
  • CHEESE- 10%

 

Protein intake was ( and still is ) an issue, but I was getting by.

 

And approximately 2 weeks ago, my life completely changed. I got diagnosed as LACTOSE INTOLERANT. FML.

 

Why and how? Read on.

 

Last December, after a massive 10-day binge eating and partying spree, courtesy a big famjam at home, I started getting massive stomach pains, after every single meal. It was a scrunchy, uneasy, farty kinda pain, that is generally felt when you eat the wrong food combination- your stomach gets upset. The pain would get worse on an empty stomach and I couldn’t sleep most nights. All symptoms pointed towards a peptic ulcer.

 

I dismissed it off as a long-term food poisoning and double downed on dal chawal, curd rice, plain chaach ( age-old techniques!), but the pain became worse.

 

Low stomach acid was the first diagnosis and I was immediately put on probiotic pills and apple cider vinegar daily. 2 weeks and still no pain relief. I got worse and couldn’t get out of bed on most days.

 

The next step was to get an endoscopy ( YIKES!), but one very sane doctor in Singapore advised me to go off dairy completely for 2 whole weeks, just to rule out a lactose allergy, before settling for an invasive procedure. No dairy in ANY FORM. No ghee, curd, milk, paneer, cheese, butter, ice cream, fresh cream, no hidden dairy ( cakes etc) either. Dairy causes too much acidity in the body, which leads to gut inflammation. Digestion is affected, which in turn leads to bloating, increased gas and diarrhoea. My symptoms were similar to Gastritis, but no nausea or fever presented itself, so dairy could the culprit.

 

WHAT? NO DAIRY FOR 2 WEEKS? SO WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO EAT? NO CHEESE, NO PIZZA- HOW AM I GONNA DO THIS?

 

The first 3 days were the worst. I couldn’t have my chai in the morning, dal rice without ghee was THE WORST, and breakfast was just giant helpings of carbs. I can’t have eggs without cheese ( I absolutely HATE the taste of egg)- so protein intake was low.

 

After the first week, I looked at my food diary and realised- not a single episode of stomach pain in 7 days! For the first time in almost 3 months, I had energy, I was sleeping better, bowel movements were regular and my body felt light. After 10 days, my workouts starting getting better, the lethargy was gone, and I could focus on tasks with utmost concentration.

 

12 days into the regime and I even lost a kilogram, courtesy no junk food! No pizza, Mexican, burgers, sandwiches, or even salads! I stuck to home cooked food, added more veggies in every meal, ate more avocados and felt like a million bucks. Just a big mug of warm water in the morning gave me the pick-me-up I needed.

 

2 weeks into no dairy routine, and I have now been diagnosed as “mildly lactose intolerant”. My gut has lost the ability to produce lactase in large amounts to handle a normal intake of dairy products. But how could I be lactose intolerant now? How is that even possible?

 

Secondary lactose intolerance is possible at any stage in adulthood when a bout of food poisoning or a major lifestyle change could affect the body’s production of the lactase enzyme. Indians aren’t generally affected because of our genetics, but it isn’t impossible.

 

It hit me like a ton of bricks, but a diet change is the only way forward. I will have to embrace soy milk, almond milk, dairy-free ice cream and even find an alternative to my beloved chai! What I can infer from my 2 week -no-dairy-routine is that:

  • It isn’t impossible to live without dairy. But calcium supplements have to be taken.
  • Since the birth of the vegan diet, dairy free options are plenty. And they taste pretty good too!
  • Unfortunately, most dairy alternatives such as soymilk and almond milk have a ton of sugar added to them. Finding a no-sugar version in Singapore is tough.
  • Is the body’s energy level connected directly to dairy intake? Help me out here!
  • Since ghee is clarified butter, it has a significantly lesser amount of milk solids. But is it beneficial in any way, except for providing fat? So Ghee should be ok, right?
  • Is now the right time to start eating chicken?

 

I have a ton of questions about my journey forward, and I would love to discuss it with your guys! Hit me up in the comments!

You can follow me @imperfectmaa on Instagram 

Last but definitely not the least, thank you Chirag for letting me write this! Subscribe to the blog NOW folks!

 

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