What It Means To Be Nigerian And Lactose Intolerant

According to this study, sixty to eighty percent of black people will become lactose intolerant in their lifetimes. This means that at some point in your life you’ll go from being able to wolf down dairy-based products like it’s nothing, to sitting doubled over on the toilet for hours just because you had a bowl of cereal.  So, if you already aren’t lactose intolerant, your chances of escape are very slim.

And if like me, you are lactose intolerant and happen to be a Nigerian living in Nigeria this is pretty much how life goes down for you.

You are in a constant state of denial.

The first stage of being lactose intolerant is being in denial. For many people, it’s the only stage because is a life without milk even worth living? It all starts when you notice that your regular morning cup of tea has you visiting the office toilet one too many times. Then comes the cramps, the bloating and flatulence all because you had a pack of Hollandia. But you stay in denial.

You’ll slowly discover there’s actually quite a bit of food you really shouldn’t eat.

When you think about lactose intolerance, in theory, it doesn’t seem all that bad. All you need to do is avoid milk and dairy products and you are good. It’s not like you even like milk like that, and it’s not preventing you from eating things like Jollof rice or small chops. Then you realize you can’t randomly buy FanIce when you are stuck in traffic (especially when you are stuck in traffic). Or hit up your Fura plug on a busy day. And it all goes downhill from there.

You’ll get a lot of ‘what’s that one again’ when explaining your dietary constraints.

Once in a blue moon, you’ll take pity upon yourself and your poor stomach and actually try to avoid milk and other dairy products. Which is likely to garner curiosity when you turn down free pizza slices because it’s someone’s birthday at work. You could explain that you are lactose intolerant and only practising self-care. Which is likely to get you a couple of ‘you’ve come agains’. Or you could go to the unquestionable route and just say you are fasting.

You’ll spend a large amount of time praying and hoping when you suddenly break out in beads of sweat in public spaces.

You are no stranger to this feeling. One minute all is fine with the world. The next minute a strange chill comes upon you. The hair on your arms stand and you break out in a sweat. Which means you have anywhere from two to thirty minutes to find yourself a toilet. And that’s when you start hoping and praying your stomach behaves itself long enough for you to get home, because have you seen public bathrooms.

You’ll suddenly want nothing more than you want dairy products.

You know how kids react when their toys are taken away from them? Well, that’s exactly how full-grown adults react when they discover that their body is revolting against dairy products. They suddenly can’t imagine a life without it. You might not have had a bowl of cereal in months, then you find out you are lactose intolerant and all of a sudden you want to have a bowl of more milk than cereal for breakfast lunch and dinner.

Denouncing anything dairy every five to seven working days.

This usually occurs after a particularly harrowing encounter between you, your stomach and a toilet. Like that time the office toilet was out of service and you had to use the one meant for the opposite sex. Or being a little tipsy and suddenly having to take a shit at 3am in a grimy club’s toilet.

Last last it won’t kill you.

No one takes the phrase ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ more seriously than a lactose intolerant person. Especially when they are wolfing down half a tub of ice cream at 10pm knowing fully well, that will mean being in the toilet from 2am to 5am.

Last last, you are a Nigerian living in Nigeria. And if that hasn’t killed you yet, what’s a little lactose intolerance?

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