A client asked me this week why I suggest she experiment with avoiding dairy for a few weeks.... here's why (and why you may want to too.)

So, you probably already know that a chunk of the population is lactose intolerant – they can't process the sugar in milk, and it produces a range of symptoms from gas to cramping to diarrhea. This is sort of obvious for why you'd want to test avoiding dairy, because who wants any of those?

image from stocksnap.io

image from stocksnap.io

Another chunk of people are not lactose intolerant, but do have a sensitivity to traditional dairy products.

Unfortunately these symptoms are not as immediate or obvious as lactose intolerance. This often affects (and harms) people with immune and inflammatory conditions (allergies, Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto's, Graves', etc) and/or digestive issues.

Many of us are sensitive to dairy because our digestive systems don't fully break down the milk proteins, and they get into our bloodstream. Our immune system thinks they're foreign and responds accordingly (attack) = cause inflammation. This manifests as joint pain, intensified symptoms of pre-existing immune or inflammatory diseases, skin irritations (adult acne, eczema) and more. It can stimulate mucus production, worsening conditions like asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and allergies; as well as sinus issues and ear infections. Many people find that their symptoms (or their kids' symptoms) improve when they eliminate traditional milk and milk products. 

So, if you're suffering from inflammation symptoms, just experiment. I'm not suggesting you swear off ice cream and pizza for the rest of your freaking life. It's just an experiment, for a specific length of time. Then you look at your observations and move on accordingly. 

Here's how to do the experiment:

  1. Before you start, jot down how you feel generally – aches/pains, breathing, digestion, skin, mood, etc. 
  2. Stop eating/drinking all dairy for 2-3 weeks. Jot down how you feel now. Notice how your skin looks and feels, notice how you're breathing, headaches, joint aches. Notice how your belly feels, how your potty breaks are.
  3. Add it back in for a few days. Ice cream, cheese, milk in your coffee. Last time, jot down how you're feeling again. 
  4. Compare your lists – what were the differences?  

While you're doing this experiment, you don't have to live without milk in your coffee/cereal/shake/____, there a ton of alternatives to try: soy (make sure it's organic), almond, hemp, rice, cashew, coconut (probably the strongest flavor of all of them.) I suggest the unsweetened versions. 

Same deal with ice cream and yogurt. Ben & Jerry's even has an almond-milk version (coffee-caramel is my fav of the flavors), but there's also soy milk, coconut, cashew. 

Cheese is slightly different for me. Because I'm a #candidcoach, I'm always honest and open with you, even if it's something negative. So my truth is that I don't love the pre-packaged non-dairy cheeses. There's usually a lot of crap in them, and I don't like the after-texture in my mouth. BUT I have a few vegan friends that absolutely love them, so again, you gotta figure out what works for you. For me, nutritional yeast (nooch) makes a good substitute for parmesan flavor, and can make a mean cheese sauce, but as far as cheddar/mozz replacements, I usually use avocado instead (ie tacos + sandwiches).  

If you are committed to having dairy daily, or you find that it's not causing you any symptoms, I'd still suggest you go with organic whenever possible. (You know that I'm practical, so I don't suggest that everything needs to be organic, but dairy is one of them. I don't want this blog post to be a billion pages so I'll save my reasoning for another post, but high on that list is antibiotics.)

And if you discover that you are feeling better without the traditional dairy, you can also experiment with goat's milk products, in addition to the plant-based options I listed above;  some people tolerate it much better. Again, just experiment ;) 

To get you started, I've compiled seven creamy dairy-free recipes to try (one for every day of the week)! Click here and I'll send the links straight to your inbox, so you can refer back when you're meal planning later.