However, this good news is balanced out by the fact that my digestive system seems to have suddenly started hating dairy produce. What I had last weekend wasn't as bad as what angilong gets, but the stomach cramps were still bad enough for me not to want to go near anything containing milk for a long time. This is actually not the first time I've had cramps and diarrhea (still can't spell it) from too much cream, but it's the first time it's been so bad that it could have been embarrassing. So I've been doing some research. Apparently something like 70% of people are lactose-intolerant to some degree, and the tendency runs particularly high in people of Asian extraction. Few people are born lactose-intolerant - it develops as you get older. Also, the majority of people who are lactose-intolerant are able to digest a small amount of lactose (this amount varies from person to person) - few people are completely lactose-intolerant. Until fairly recently the only dairy product I'd go near were cheese and ice cream - it's only been in the past year that I've been having a large milky hot chocolate every day and cream on my desserts. So this would explain why it's not been a problem for me before.
The most informative website I found suggested that I should completely avoid lactose for two weeks, and then gradually reintroduce dairy food into my diet. In this way I'd be able to find out what level of lactose would be ok. I haven't dared eat anything actively milky since Tuesday, when I worked out the link. But avoiding lactose altogether is hard - you would not believe how many foods contain milk - to say nothing of the fact that lactose is used as the base for quite a lot of medicines. Argh. The health food shop sells lactase enzyme which you can add to normal milk, then leave for 24 hours so that the lactose gets converted to something digestible, but this is rather a hassle for everything except cooking at home with milk - it's no use in getting a hot chocolate at the station or for cheese. They also have lactase enzyme in tablets that you suck, but they were out of stock so I've no idea how you take them - before or after eating? - and is it safe to take external enzyme? Might you stop producing lactase completely if you take it as a supplement?
In the meantime, I've been eating a lot of Chinese food (which tends to be entirely milk-free) and experimenting with milk replacements. In my opinion, soya milk is really foul tasting. I don't understand it - soybeans are lovely, and tofu doesn't really taste of anything unless it's deep-fried - so why does soya milk have such a horrid, bitter aftertaste? I've tried putting chocolate and vanilla in it, and nothing disguises the aftertaste. I gave up and bought some rice milk today, but haven't dared try it yet.