The first time I felt like crap after eating a meatball sub, I was convinced it was Subway's fault. I must've gotten something from their restaurant, this gas must be due to something else, I must just feel bad coincidentally.

Then came the mac and cheese. Why do I feel like shit just minutes after eating cheese? Does the same happen to me with all dairy products? What is happening to my body?

I went nineteen and a half years of my life in a lactose loving haze. Though I hate just plain milk, I love chocolate milk, and mac and cheese, and lasagna, and butter. God bless butter. But when my body started rejecting all of my favorite things, I was terrified and pissed.

Turns out, lactose intolerance runs in my family. My father, an African American man, has been lactose intolerant for as long as I can remember. He's self diagnosed, of course (as am I, for now) but it has never been a secret that milk just doesn't sit right with dad.

According to the National Library of Medicine, about "three fourths of African Americans have the potential for symptoms of lactose intolerance". A similar Cornell study showed that people of African and Asian ancestral descent have trouble digesting lactose because of the traditional lack of dairy herding in these regions. Compared to Europe, which was the perfect environment to raise cattle in, Africa and Asia's climates were too harsh, so the people just adapted.

That adaptation kept up with us. Even now, generations removed and only one half African American, I have developed a lactose intolerance that, frankly, sucks. I know I got lucky as far as intolerances go- it could have been gluten (not the bread!) or a peanut allergy (I love my Reese's way too much), but I would really prefer to not have to take a pill before I eat a bowl of ice cream or a slice of toast.

So how do I cope?

I'd like to introduce you to my new best friend, Lactaid. Or, more specifically, the Top Care knock-off version of Lactaid. My best advice for anyone who feels like they might be developing a lactose intolerance, but really doesn't feel like going to the doctor because they don't know what the problem is, is try this. It can't hurt you if you aren't lactose intolerant; the lactase enzyme just helps to digest any and all lactose that passes through your small intestine.

Next step: figure out how to substitute.

I was very lucky in this; my mom is somewhat of a cheese specialist, having worked in a deli and with cheeses for more than twenty years. She recommended Romano cheese first and foremost; it's a goat's milk cheese so it's lactose free. It's also delicious in spaghetti, my favorite food ever.

If you're looking for other cheeses, try hard and medium hard cheeses; Parmesan, Asiago, cheddar, Gouda, and jack cheeses. Remember that it's all about testing out things for you; I can't handle cheddar, but maybe you can. Everyone's body is different.

But what about my glass of milk?

This is where I wasn't upset until I thought about chocolate milk. I freaking love chocolate milk, its so comforting and just all around amazing. Unfortunately, my small intestine doesn't feel the same way. I personally can't even get away with a glass of milk even if I take my lactase supplement, but like I said earlier you may be different. My dad can handle milk if he eats a really heavy meal with it. It's all trial and error people.

You aren't completely out of luck if you really want that bowl of cereal. Alternatives to cow milk include almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and lactose free milk. Be sure to try out all four, because each one does different things, but in general these are great substitutes.

But I'm like super lactose intolerant, what about me?

I'm no specialist, so I would recommend calling your doctor and talking to them. In the meantime, try vegan foods; there is no animal products at all, so no lactose. You can also try these desserts that are so good that you can't even taste the difference.

In no way should you let your lactose intolerance ruin your life. There are always options, even if they aren't your number one choice. Everyone's body is different, I cannot stress this enough; it is so important to find your body's limits and not push them too far. 

Even though lactose intolerance is painful, annoying, and the gas can be embarrassing, it's not unique. Seventy-five percent of the world is lactose intolerant, and almost everyone has a very low tolerance for lactose once they grow out of infancy, so really, you're in the majority.

Instead of taking this as a hit and being upset at your body (like I was), think of it as a way to force yourself to be innovative with your diet and try things you would've never thought to try. You'll be surprised at what you like.