Giving up dairy foods can be an intimidating undertaking. Dairy products are present in everything from cheese on a slice of pizza to a splash of cream in a cup of coffee. It can feel impossible to avoid it. But for many people, the benefits of giving up dairy are worth the effort!
Let’s unpack those benefits. We’ll also explore a few practical ways to live a delicious dairy-free life.
Giving up Dairy is a Beneficial Dietary Choice
The health benefits of giving up dairy are extensive and well-documented. Research shows that milk stimulates mucus production. This happens in the gut and respiratory tract.1 Eliminating dairy from the diet can result in improved respiratory health. Cutting your dairy intake can also result in fewer sinus issues.
For people with lactose intolerance, avoiding dairy altogether often results in restoring digestive function. It can also reduce unpleasant symptoms like stomach aches, gas, and diarrhea. But is intolerance the right word? Are we correctly labeling what is happening here? If the immune response is trying to eliminate the irritant from the body, that is much more than an “intolerance.”
In our clinics, dairy is one of the most common allergies we see come up on patient tests. This includes both IgE allergies and IgG allergies. When these allergies go untested, they can lead to chronic inflammation. Inflammation is the common denominator of many illnesses and health conditions. This is why The Wellness Way guides our patients through calming inflammatory responses. These responses can take place throughout the entire body. Testing for food allergies is a critical step in that process.
What are the Benefits?
Among other things, acne can be an inflammatory condition. As stated above, dairy causes inflammation if you’re allergic to it. This is why cutting your dairy intake to bring down inflammation can help acne clear up.
Rosacea and eczema are also inflammatory skin conditions. These “chronic” health concerns don’t have to be chronic.
A study published in Clinics in Dermatology looked into this. It studied the effects of anabolic steroids and growth hormones in milk. The study’s results indicated that these can stimulate the development of acne.2 Patients have reported better skin when put on a diet adjusted to their food allergies. As mentioned above, this can–and often does–include dairy.
This goes back to the fact that dairy causes inflammation in some people. Your immune system reacts to inflammation within the body the same as it reacts if you slam a finger in the door. One of these reactions is swelling—that’s the immune system responding to a trigger. When the organs and tissues inside your body swell, they have nowhere to go but out. This is what is generally called bloating. Decreased weight and girth can be an anti-inflammatory effect of less dairy consumption.
Dairy also has a good amount of sugar in it. As U.S. Dairy3 says, the sugar in milk is from the naturally-occurring lactose. It isn’t an added sugar. This means whether you’re getting full-fat dairy products, low-fat milk, or no-fat milk.
This shouldn’t be seen as the one-stop shop for ending obesity. We do, though, speak from what we’ve seen as clinical results. Some people lose weight fast. Others may not lose weight. Instead, it may be easier to build muscle, or they see an increase in energy.
Improved Gut Health and Digestion
Dairy is a very common IgG allergy response. These aren’t often noticed as reactions. This is because the reactions don’t happen immediately. That doesn’t mean the reactions don’t happen, or that the allergies aren’t there. Cutting out these allergies will improve your wellness. Yes, no matter how many ‘important nutrients’ they have.
Some people are lactose intolerant. This means their enzyme lactase is too low to properly digest dairy. This can also affect your gut. If your body doesn’t properly prepare a substance for the rest of the GI tract, that, too, can cause inflammation. For example, it’s good that you eat proteins. But what happens if you don’t have enough stomach acid? Stomach acid breaks down those proteins into amino acids. It also sterilizes the food in your stomach for the next leg of the trip. If you don’t have enough to properly prepare your food for your small intestine, it sees those proteins similar to as it would see a virus. And, because your body always responds the way it’s supposed to, it acts against them like they are an intruder, like a virus. Your body doesn’t make mistakes. This is actually proven by the fact that autoimmune disorders exist.
There is a lot that happens in the gut. These processes impact everything from digestion to brain health. If your immune system reacts to the presence of dairy, and inflammation flares up, this can impact you a lot. This can include how you digest other foods, as well. If the gut is inflamed, it may be causing symptoms you don’t think link to your gut.
Improved Mental Health
Did you know that serotonin is produced, largely, in your gut? So if your gut is inflamed, or busy completing more urgent duties, it won’t produce as much serotonin. While you can supplement with prescription meds and pills, there’re pros and cons with that, too. Lowering inflammation biomarkers? Restoring health, and allowing your body to start making it as it’s supposed to? That’s the optimal situation.
Strategies for Giving up Dairy
We promise that lowering your dairy intake, and giving it up altogether, is not as difficult as it sounds! Keep these strategies in mind as you make the transition.
Read labels carefully.
Dairy hides out in a large number of foods. Know the various names for dairy and look at labels closely. Besides common names like milk, cheese, or cream, dairy also goes by:
- Casein or caseinate
- Whey or whey protein isolate/concentrate
- Natural milk flavor or natural butter flavor
- DMS (dry milk solids)
- Lactate solids
- Lactic yeast
Focus on whole foods.
Eating a diet rich in good, whole foods leaves little room for processed foods and hidden dairy. Organic vegetables and fruits, grass-fed meats, and healthy fats are a few examples. Increasing the intake of important nutrients as you need them also helps. Prebiotics, probiotics, and antioxidants are some good examples of these nutrients. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what your body needs, though, as all bodies are different. Nutrition isn’t one size fits all any more than one supplement fits everyone.
Be aware that foods with ‘whole’ in their name don’t necessarily fall under this umbrella. Whole grains have sugar and can be an allergen. While your body needs carbohydrates, it doesn’t need sugar. Whole grains contain anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Meaning, on paper, they should bring down inflammation. This doesn’t, however, hold true if you’re allergic to them. A lot of things have anti-inflammatory properties, but if you’re allergic to them, inflammation trumps ‘health benefits’.
Remember, too, your body doesn’t know moderation. Keep mixing up what you eat.
Enjoy Dairy Replacements Occasionally.
Alternatives like coconut milk and hemp milk are easy and convenient. The options for dairy replacements have greatly improved in availability and flavor, recently. You can now find dairy-free yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, and ice cream in most grocery stores. These are helpful swaps to ease your transition to a dairy-free diet. Remember to read labels carefully, as they can contain other highly processed ingredients.
Explore dairy-free recipes!
Once you learn a dairy-free approach to cooking, you’ll love the new world of flavors that opens up to you. Try a few of our favorite dairy-free recipes to get you started:
- Ranch Dressing
- Kickin’ Queso
- Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Pancakes
- Dairy-Free Potato Soup
- Trio Chia Pudding
- Christy’s Lemon Cheesecake
WHAT ABOUT GOAT AND SHEEP MILK?
People who aren’t lactose intolerant but have a dairy allergy are often reacting to the A1 casein in cow’s milk. Goat and sheep’s milk contains the A2 type of casein protein, which is much less inflammatory. A2 protein more closely resembles the proteins found in human breast milk, making it less likely to trigger allergies and inflammation. Goat’s milk is also higher in zinc and selenium than cow’s milk. It also has greater availability of iron, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Sheep’s milk is higher in vitamin B12, vitamin C, folate, calcium, and magnesium than either cow’s or goat’s milk. It’s also rich in sodium, magnesium, iron, iodine, phosphorus, and vitamin D, B9, B7, B3, A, E, and K.4
That said, the only way to know if you have an allergy to cow, goat, or sheep’s milk is to get your food allergies tested. While goat or sheep’s milk may be a great alternative for some, it will do more harm than good for a person who is allergic. The testing we conduct in our clinics differentiates between types of milk allergies. It will also test for allergies to other ingredients like almonds or coconut. These are common ingredients in dairy replacement products. These may also need to be avoided.
But So-and-so Says Dairy Isn’t Linked to Inflammation!
Some websites and groups say dairy isn’t inflammatory. Clinical trials have even shown it to be anti-inflammatory. Even in cases of metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes. Therefore, these groups argue, it is not linked to heart disease or anything else.
While, for some people, this is true, one size does not fit all in any realm of health. Kefir might help or hurt someone’s gut health, depending on what is going on inside. A Mediterranean diet may help someone for a short time. That doesn’t negate the fact that diets should not be a long-term, or blanket solution.
Everyone’s bodies have different allergies and different thresholds for stress. They also have different reasons for the symptoms you may be experiencing. Don’t depend on a popular blog post or authority to tell you what is right or wrong for your body. Especially when they haven’t seen your labs or how your Swiss watch is functioning.
Get your allergies and gut tested. Find out what is necessary for your body. Contact a Wellness Way clinic, today!