Yes indeed it’s another tale about bowel functions in my family. I’m wrapping a little lesson on lactose intolerance with it, so hang in there.
We were recently at a family reunion in Ashtabula, Ohio at beautiful Lakeshore Park. This is a great place for a large gathering, except for the fact that the public bathrooms are not very convenient or private (at least not for my family’s standards). It probably won’t surprise you to know that many members of my extended family suffer from lactose intolerance. About two hours into the reunion, my cousin disappeared for 20 minutes or so. Later she confessed that she snuck off to a relative’s nearby home to have some private bathroom time. She blamed it on the mac and cheese.
But my-husband-the-doctor was quick to correct her. Apparently lactose intolerance does not affect you immediately after eating dairy. It takes time. Then he went into a long-winded explanation of why this is. As usual I will attempt to condense it as much as possible for your sanity.
Lactose is the sugar in milk. For most people, that sugar is broken up by the lactase enzyme in the small intestine. This makes it easier to digest. If you have lactose intolerance, however, the lactose reaches your large intestine and causes gas and diarrhea.
It takes food about 6 to 8 hours to reach your large intestine, so the recently consumed mac and cheese was blameless. This is where I piped in my two cents. I have been with many a family member when we had to emergently find a restroom. I won’t mention any specific names, but some female members of my family seem to have major bowel issues as soon as we finish a meal in a restaurant. Let’s just say I won’t eat Mexican food with them if we’re more than 10 minutes from their house. But if it takes food 6-8 hours to even reach the large intestine, let alone make its way to the exit, what’s going on? Why such urgency?
Apparently there’s a myriad of reasons, but what it seems to boil down to is the fact that we humans don’t usually eat the way we’re meant to. We eat too much at one time and a lot of the wrong foods. As a result, our bowels are typically stressed to some extent most of the time. When we have a really big meal, like during a family reunion with a ton of great food, our full bellies send a message to our already stressed large intestine and we feel the need to poop. Lactose intolerance adds to the stress for sure, especially when you’re like my cousin and still eat dairy regularly hoping for the best.
So although she technically could not blame it on the mac and cheese the day of the reunion, I’m sure the thought crossed her mind the next day!
Some links for those of you who are interested in learning more about your bowels: