Denise came to see me because she was suffering from digestive issues, bloating and cramps and sometimes a small glass of wine could make her feel completely off. She knew she was lactose intolerant and was doing really well with sticking to lactose free dairy options. Just recently she had made the discovery that Gouda contains very little to no lactose at all and thought it would make it a good choice for her too.

Despite following a lactose free eating plan and having lactase pills at hand for an occasional meal at a restaurant, she still didn’t find relief from her symptoms. Denise had been tested with a breath test about three years ago. The test showed a clear result for lactose intolerance, so why was she still experiencing digestive discomfort? To take the guessing out of this question, I sent her to have a very specific food intolerance test done through a blood sample.

Both her and I were very curious to get the results, I know Denise was a little nervous about them too. The results were very clear: in addition to the lactose intolerance, Denise was also strongly reacting to the protein in cow and sheep dairy products. Goat dairy triggered a mild response. There were three other surprising foods on the list flagged in red: bananas, beans and honey.

What do these results mean for Denise? The severity of her reaction to protein in most dairy, led to the recommendation to exclude all cow and sheep dairy products from her diet for six months (in many cases an exclusion of 3 months can already make a difference). This is a pretty straight forward interpretation of the test result. What was really fascinating was the interpretation of the fact that Denise also reacted strongly to bananas, beans and honey. This trio held the answer to why occasionally she would feel really unwell after even just a small glass of wine. The key word here was histamine. Our bodies produce histamine which is involved in our immune reaction, however the amounts we produce fluctuate. There are foods and drinks that also contain histamines, including wine.

So when Denise happens to have a glass of wine on a day when her own histamine levels are high, she can react with nausea, abdominal cramps and flushing where on another day, she’d be absolutely fine. This was a true revelation for Denise because she couldn’t figure out why or because of what this would happen and was sometimes even wondering if she was imagining things. All of a sudden this made sense and she felt relief because there was a logical explanation. After getting past the aha-moment something else happened. Now she knew what to avoid to get better, she realised that a ‘life’ without dairy and honey was very difficult to imagine. After all she loves cheese and sweetens her tea with honey.

It’s a normal reaction to first focus on the things you love and cannot have anymore if you want to get better. I challenged Denise to look at the flip side and get curious about the alternatives and about discovering new things. We tend to buy the things we are used to, things we like and know. We are reluctant to change our habits. So what a great opportunity to be called out of your comfort zone with the wonderful reward of feeling great attached to new safe discoveries. For example, there are lots of plant based milk alternatives such as coconut, almond, rice, hazelnut, just to name a few. They can be used in delicious soups and sauces, homemade cakes and muffins, and yes, even for making very tasty ice cream. At the same time you have control over how much and what type of sugar goes into your delights.

Together, Denise and I worked out a plan including new food items and recipes. And when she goes shopping now, she is always on the look out for new foods she knows will love her body back. In the process Denise discovered that she really enjoys baking and the best of this journey of discovery is that digestion no longer causes discomfort!

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