Skip to content


Gastric woes

milkncheese.jpgObservant readers might recall me complaining about a bout of food poisoning back in June during ApacheCon week, which, along with a poorly-timed work trip, unfortunately managed to stop me attending ApacheCon altogether.

Turns out that that “food poisoning” never went away — four months later, I’m still having digestive troubles. However, I’ve been lucky enough to figure out a way to minimise it, which I’ll mention here for posterity (and Google).

So, basically, the symptoms were general stomach unsettledness, nausea, cramping, a sharp pain in the right side, and heartburn — all waxing and waning intermittently. (There were issues at “the other end” I’ll leave out, in the interests of good taste.) On top of that, my level of stomach “calmness” was way off — nausea from travelling in cars, buses, taxis etc. became an issue.

Thankfully, it didn’t interfere with work much at all — since I work from home, it was pretty easy to deal with. But it certainly put a damper on trips like ApacheCon, or BarCamp Ireland… it became quite difficult, in particular, to travel any kind of distance during the daytime. (Luckily my ability to partake in pints of Guinness during the evening was not affected, however. ;)

I did the usual thing of visiting my local G.P., and was referred to a gastro-intestinal specialist — that’s all still going on, slowly. But fortunately, in the meantime, I had a breakthrough in terms of dealing with the symptoms.

Initially, the waxing and waning of symptoms seemed pretty random, but after a week or two, a pattern emerged — on a normal day, it’d typically be worst at about 11am in the morning, then ease off before lunch, then worse again after lunch. During and after dinner, it’d be fine, and the evenings were almost symptom-free. On an empty stomach, there was similarly virtually no problems whatsoever.

Of course, having a link with quantities of food makes sense for a GI illness. But it eventually occurred to me that the symptoms were increasing and waning in time with specific types of food, in fact. The pattern of symptoms were tracking my drinking of milk, in cereal, and in tea or coffee, delayed by about 2 hours. Now, I’ve always been a total omnivore — I’ve never suffered from allergies, had any issues digesting food, or suffered travel illness. My sea legs were rock solid; one trip to the Great Barrier Reef saw myself and C being the only tourists not to vom over the sides despite some heavy waves. Also, as an Irishman, tea is the core component of my diet, and tea with milk at that; and dairy is similarly at the heart of Irish cuisine in many ways, plenty of milk, cheese, and butter. I was raised on the stuff, and love it!

But the signs were pretty solid, so I gave up dairy for a week or two to try it out. It took a week to “clear out” initially, but since then, the results have been fantastic; some of the symptoms (the sharp pain, cramps, heartburn) are almost gone, and levels of the others (nausea, stomach ‘unsettledness’) are way down most of the time. If I eat something that contains milk, cheese or whey — such as a packet of crisps recently — I can tell within 10 minutes, since the pain in my right side “twinges” noticeably. It really is astounding.

The wierd thing is, this came out of nowhere. A week before that bbq, I was glugging milk without a single issue, and feeling perfectly fine; I’ve never had issues with dairy. Then all of a sudden, it just hit me, seemingly after a short bout of food poisoning, and it still hasn’t gone away.

Talking to people, though, it appears this is more common than one might think; I now know of several people who’ve become lactose intolerant, suddenly, in their 30s.

Anyway, the core issue is still there, but while the wheels of medical science grind on, I at least have pretty good control of the nastier symptoms again. yay.