Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Lauren Perlstein
Cheese isn't everything, it's the only thing. For as long as I can remember, cheese has been a staple in just about every one of my meals. Cream cheese, Swiss cheese, muenster cheese, mozzarella cheese, my palate for cheese knew no limits . . . until my stomach finally rebelled. With a lifelong cheese addiction came a lot of stomach troubles, and after plenty of painful days, it was time for me to face the question I've been avoiding for far too long: do I need to give up cheese?
If it's possible to reach a "too much cheese" threshold, well, consider it reached. My gastroenterologist recommended I cut out dairy entirely about five years ago, but being a college girl at the time with an affinity for late-night Taco Bell, I took his instructions more as a light suggestion and politely declined. Now, in my recurring quest to master so-called "adulting," I decided it was time.
I made the switch to nondairy milk a few months ago and cut out dairy-based yogurts at the same time, but cheese is my weakness. And I'm not going to lie to you, those dairy-free cheeses don't really cut it. After countless afternoons at work spent doubled over in pain, the occasional sprint home to my apartment to use the bathroom, and the massively bloated stomach accompanied by unbuttoned jeans, I decided that the best way to start was to not cut out dairy at all but instead, take Lactaid constantly to avoid my lactose intolerance.
It was the ideal solution — I didn't have to give up my love for cheese, but instead pop a little white pill with the first bite of a meal and hopefully avoid the stomachache. It worked, to some degree, but to truly test this dairy-free thing to the fullest, I needed to give up cheese (like, for real, for real), and so I did it. For a full week, I gave up cheese, and for the first time in my life, I had to order lunch sans queso. Here are the immediate changes I noticed:
All it takes is one bite of a cheese-laden meal for my stomach to inflate like a balloon. It's uncomfortable, it's painful, and the obvious factor: it isn't cute! My hope was that by cutting out cheese, my stomach would debloat as if said balloon happened to find its way to a pin, and that pretty much happened. Without heavy cheese consumption, my stomach never reached that explosive, button-popping state it has in the past. Flat stomach, we meet again!
Um, the Bathroom
If bathroom talk grosses you out, please skip this section entirely. If not, welcome! As stated earlier, cheese caused tons of painful stomachaches, which typically landed me in the bathroom. But no cheese meant no intestinal issues, and well, for someone with a picky, bland diet like myself, going to the bathroom was a bit more of a struggle — a healthy struggle, to say the least. With the lack of cheese, I had to consciously incorporate foods that would make me go to the bathroom like prunes and fiber-based cereals to get things moving.
No one can really diagnose themselves with an allergy, so we recommend consulting a doctor first before making any drastic changes to your diet. Second, it took me a while, but I learned it actually is possible to enjoy a sandwich or Italian meal without cheese. No, the deli man won't judge you, nor will the people standing around you. Cheese-free is possible, people, and you may miss pizza, grilled cheese, and quesadillas, but for me, it was not worth the constant discomfort on a daily basis.