the Mammal Chronicles: February 2008

when it comes right down to it, ya lactate or ya don't.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

substance abuse

While I am not a substance abuser (generally I treat them quite nicely), I am abused by substances. I was born with an asian hereditary inability to tolerate alcohol. This means that if I do consume, I bypass drunk and go right to sick. My older sister, who instead inherited my naval father's inclination and ability to drink anyone under the table, used to insist that I merely needed to develop a tolerance. So at 18, with my sister's assistance I began my noble attempt to do just that. Each time, however, my face would flush at the first sip and by midway through a cocktail I would need to lie down, sometimes on the floor of a nightclub bathroom. Tequila was always the worst. With only one sip of a weak margarita, I slid off my seat at a mexican restaurant and flopped under the table until a waiter insisted I could stay there no longer (his insistence was, in reality, less compelling than my body's insistence that I stay put). Eventually I realized I was allergic to alcohol, perhaps tequila more than any other, and quit trying to drink.

Fast forward several decades when another of my mother's genetic traits reared its substance sensitive head: this time I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. Since then, I've been trying to fend off genetics and hypoglycemic spells by exercising and radically changing my diet. In the process, I've been trying a variety of natural and unnatural sugar substitutes to appease my ferocious sweet tooth (o.k., maybe I *was* at one point a sugar abuser). I tend to gravitate toward natural substitutes because, well, they're natural and besides which I'm hoping I can cook for the whole family, including my toddler daughter. I've tried Stevia (Bleh. Bitter foretaste and aftertaste), sweetening baked goods with fruit juice (Tastes fabulous, but highly questionable in terms of whether or not it has a more favorable effect on blood glucose levels), sweetening baked goods with fruit (low impact on blood glucose, but not terribly sweet), sugar alcohols (which taste fabulous, but I'm not sure about their suitability for children) and more recently, agave nectar.

Agave nectar, a sweetener made from the Agave cactus, purportedly has a lower glycemic index. It tastes great too. But shortly after I had my soy milk hot cocoa sweetened with Agave nectar last night, I began experiencing stomach distress. It wasn't horrible, it wasn't painful, but it was very uncomfortable. I carefully reviewed everything I'd eaten that day, and no other ingredient was new. Then it occurred to me: if I'm sensitive to Tequila, maybe I'm also sensitive to what it's made of.

So here my genetic pre-dispositions came together, meeting like long-lost lovers in my gastro-intestinal tract. I, on the other hand, continue my search for my sweetener soul mate. I know you're out there somewhere.

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