I’m sure it’s pretty safe to say that most of us grew up drinking milk or eating it with your cereal every morning. I always enjoyed a glass of cold chocolate milk. We were taught by our mothers, grandmothers and doctors that drinking milk is good for our bones and if we want to grow up and be strong, we need to drink our milk. It’s one of the first things we ingest in life and one of the most common food allergies.
To quote the famous Dr. Mark Hyman: “Dairy is nature’s perfect food — but only if you’re a calf.” Cow milk was never intended for human consumption. The first recorded allergy to milk was about 2,000 years ago by Hippocrates who noted gastrointestinal and skin symptoms after ingesting milk.
Why be dairy free?
For most of us, we start on the dairy free journey to relieve symptoms like bloating, skin rashes, digestive upset, and allergies. For me, I couldn’t tolerate any dairy because it caused multiple skin issues like eczema and acne, and also would cause bloating and constipation.
The primary sources of dairy that need to be avoided when eating a dairy free diet include milk, cheese, butter, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, custards and puddings, ice cream, gelato and sherbet, whey, and casein.
Luckily there are plenty of plant alternatives these days so you can still enjoy “dairy” but without all the nasty side effects.
The benefits of being dairy free
Improved digestion– It is estimated that about 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. As we age, the amount of enzymes that we have to break down lactose is greatly reduced causing an increase in lactose-intolerant symptoms such as, bloating, gas, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea and constipation. Dairy is also a known trigger for IBS symptoms as well.
Improved respiratory health– Dairy consumption has been associated with an increase in mucus production of your respiratory tract which is why you may feel your allergies are exasperated when eating dairy.
Clearer skin– There have been many studies that have shown a direct link between dairy consumption and acne. I myself has seen that happen to my own skin. Part of the problem is the hormones found in milk. Cows have to be pregnant or lactating to produce milk which means they are full of hormones. That’s why there really is no such thing as hormone free milk. There are about 60 hormones in your average glass of milk (even organic, raw, and bovine growth hormone-free milk). Most of my acne from milk was along my jawline in cystic form which is where “hormonal” acne usually occurs.
Milk also spikes insulin levels since the lactose in milk is actually sugar. A raise in blood sugar can lead to breakouts. Milk also causes inflammation which can lead to rashes, eczema, bumps and more.
Reduces cancer risk– Fresh fruit and vegetables has been shown to decrease cancer risk where as sugar is known to increase cancer risk. Studies have been done that show an increase in your risk of developing cancer from consuming milk. A high calcium intake (from dairy), has been shown to increase prostate cancer risk since it lower the hormones that protect against prostate cancer. Milk also contains contaminants like pesticides which have carcinogenic properties which has been shown to promote breast cancer cell growth. The link between cancer and your diet is very real and must be taken seriously.
There are many dairy alternatives in our stores today without having to turn to soy which can be an allergen for a lot of people.
If you’re looking for a milk substitute for your cereal, smoothies, oatmeal, coffee or tea, nut milk is a great option. There is-
- almond milk (my favorite)
- rice milk
- coconut milk (great for coffee due to it’s thickness)
- hazelnut milk
- hemp milk
For a butter substitute when cooking or baking, try-
- olive oil
- coconut oil (this one is best for high heat cooking)
- avocado oil
- grapeseed oil
For a spreads/toppings substitute-
- nut butter (almond, cashew)
These are all great on gluten free toast and are a great addition to your sandwiches instead of cheese. Instead of sour cream on a taco, have guacamole. You still get the satisfaction of the creamy fat but in a healthier way.
It can be difficult to change something that we’ve been doing a long time. It just takes some planning and patience. You don’t have to change it all at once. Just start by replacing one or two things in your diet and then add more as you go along. You don’t have to give up ice cream, just choose a coconut milk based one instead, or if you like milk in your tea or coffee, try almond milk instead. There are a lot of options out there which makes the transition less difficult.
Have you gone dairy free? Do you have any tips and tricks for your dairy substitutes? What benefits have you noticed from being dairy free? I’d love to hear!