Saturday, March 19, 2011

Weekend Update: Lactose, anyone?

So, the night before last, I discovered some chocolate chip mint ice cream in the freezer. I had some. It was good. Being the smart boy that I am, I took a Lactaid before I ate said ice cream, just in case.

You see, I'm sort of lactose intolerant. Not really bad, generally. I can and will eat cheese until my arteries burst with no other ill effects aside from horribly clogging the pipes that keep oxygen flowing to my brain. I can eat ice cream, sometimes, no problem. Sometimes it's not such a good idea. Glass of cow milk? I may as well drink bleach.

Now. If you've studied any introductory psychology, you may be familiar with operant conditioning. If not, there is a handy link.

Now, operant conditioning, and contingency are factors that will reinforce a particular behavior. This is why gambling is addictive. You don't always win. But sometimes you win. Sometimes you have to try dozens of times to win, and that one "yay, I win!" can be enough motivation to keep performing the task of pushing the button or laying down another $10 chip or saying "okay, fine, let's put two hundred bucks on this game, but I already won $20 from you and I kinda feel bad taking your money like this" to the pool shark.

Now, I don't really have a problem with all those things. What I apparently have a problem with is ice cream. You see, ice cream, as I am sure you are aware, is yummy. You get a reward every time. Which, based on psychology, should reinforce the eating-ice-cream behavior to some extent.

Now, when you are lactose intolerant, and you eat ice cream, and it shreds you from the inside, you get a small reward (yummy!) followed by a positive punishment (ARRGH, MY INTESTINES). The difference in relative size of these is considerable, so the lactose intolerant typically will say "Oh, no, I can't eat ice cream. I'm lactose intolerant" when faced with an offer of ice cream, because they know what happens.

Here's the problem. I am sort of lactose intolerant. So, I get a small reward (yummy) followed by either a good night's sleep after a nice dessert (positive reinforcement) or moderately angry intestines (positive punishment). And the punishment is not generally severe. Also, Lactaid helps me avoid said punishment. So, the odds are good that if I have my trusty enzyme supplement, and then some ice cream, I get to enjoy the ice cream without risking the punishment. Neat, right? Just like the commercials say it works. If there's ice cream handy? I will totally eat it. Sometimes even without the Lactaid if I'm feeling risky.

As I was saying, the night before last, I had some Lactaid, and some ice cream, and all was well. So, hey, this ice cream thing, not so bad. And there's still a bucket of it left. Last night, I had some Lactaid, and some ice cream again.

Now, before I get to the next part, let me explain that my Lactaid is really infrequently used. I don't buy ice cream, nor do I buy milk, because what's the point if they might wreak havoc on my innards? But, sometimes ice cream appears in the freezer. My Lactaid is expired by a few months. Now, with most medications, they tell you it's no good after a year, but most of them are perfectly functional for five years if you store them properly.

Lactaid is not one of these medications. Throw it the hell out and buy new stuff.

At 7 A.M. this morning, after nestling in for a good night's sleep (...okay, I went to bed at 4, maybe it's a good morning's sleep) I woke up. For no reason. Except there was some sort of knot in my guts on the left side.

Guts: "Excuse me, sir? I seem to have a dilemma."

Me: "Oh? Whatever could be the matter? I was asleep. Surely this can't wait until I am fully rested?"

Jigsaw/Guts: "I'm afraid not. You see, I have tied myself into one of those knots you use for rock climbing. Good luck figuring this one out. Also, if you move, or if you do not move, it will get worse. If you cannot untie the knot within six hours, you will die."


The timeline of events went roughly like so:

1:00 A.M.: "Mmm. Chocolate chip mint ice cream with orange cream magic shell stuff on it is good."

2:00 A.M. - 3:00 A.M.: Shooting mutants in Fallout 3.

3:00 A.M. - 4:00 A.M.: Nodding off listening to a Delerium album.

4:00 A.M. - 7:00 A.M.: Guts were clearly watching a horror movie instead of listening to relaxing music, and are secretly laying an elaborate trap. (I was asleep, so I am just assuming that this is what was going on.)

7:01 A.M.: I am issued a challenge by my guts to struggle for survival.

7:02 A.M.: I realize I am going to die. In fact, I am actively being mauled by a bear. From the inside. And I didn't even EAT a bear.

7:10 A.M.: I resign myself to death after trying to analyze whether I have indigestion from the ice cream, food poisoning from who knows what, or what organs are even on that side of me, because I already don't have an appendix, and it's not in the back so it can't be a kidney stone...

7:15 A.M.: I do exactly what I know I should never do while sleep deprived and in horrible pain. I search the Internet for solutions. But, of course, I do not start with anything but "left side abdominal pain," which immediately tells me that my liver is failing, I have diverticulitis, cancer, three dozen parasitic worms which are only found in Africa, and also indigestion.

9:30 A.M.: I somehow manage to fall back asleep.

10:00 A.M.: Still not dead, but not asleep anymore. The pain is worse, because I am clearly failing my challenge. No one is home. I get up, and go to the bathroom. I'm totally delirious and exhausted. I sit on the bathroom floor.

10:05 A.M. - 11:00 A.M.: I throw up. Then I drink water. Then I throw the water up. Lather, rinse, repeat. Can I die yet? I also try running up and down the hallway. I don't have any idea how this was supposed to fix anything, but it seemed sensible at the time and was better than throwing up.

11:00 A.M. - 11:30 A.M.: I try stretching. It doesn't feel any better. I stretch more. It still doesn't feel any better.

11:32:07 A.M.: Convinced that the game can only be won by contorting myself in such a fashion that I untie this diabolical knot, I stand on my right foot, raise my left arm up and over my head and behind me a little bit, placing my palm flat against the wall, then I try to put my left foot flat on the floor from this position. It hurts worse.

11:32:31 A.M.: I try the exact same thing again, because -- after all -- it made it hurt worse last time, so that makes sense, right?

11:32:33 A.M.: My guts make the quietest little 'gurgle' sound. Turns out, that is the sound of Jigsaw losing the game. Anticlimactic, but whatever. I win, jerkface intestines.

11:33 A.M.: Already asleep in bed.

Later: Realized that this needed to be on the Internet.


Moral of the story: Improvisational yoga will save your life. That, or maybe I should stop eating ice cream.


[EDIT 3/21 - Okay, fairly sure this was ACTUALLY a kidney stone. But whatever, the story's entertaining as-is. Kidney stones you -expect- to feel like internal ursine destruction. Gas, not so much.]


  1. I think it's the yoga. If everyone would just do more yoga the world would be a better place.

  2. "And I didn't even EAT a bear." Oh my god, I was laughing so hard I was doing the "silent laughing" thing. That line KILLED me.

    Also, EXACT same thing that happens to me with wheat. But only sometimes. And many things with wheat are, like ice cream, effing delicious. So... here I am, in bed, snacking on French bread. Yeah.

  3. running up and down the hallway? why not, cats and dogs do it after they eat their own vomit.

  4. You know, today, there's still some not cool things going on that are making me wonder if I'm actually passing a kidney stone and that some of the things that happened were coincidental or a symptom and not a cause.

    Also, if I tell myself this, then I can eat ice cream later on and go "see, it's unrelated." ;)