May was Celiac Disease Awareness Month, and during that time, I shared with you many of my reasons for why I went gluten-free, how to go gluten-free, avoiding cross-contamination at home, and how to eat out successfully on a gluten-free diet. However, I avoid more than just gluten for my health. I also avoid dairy. While there’s no “Dairy-Free Awareness Month” (that I know of – if such a thing exists, someone fill me in!), I did want to share with you some of the same types of information about why I decided to remove dairy from my diet, where dairy can be found and how to go dairy-free, and ultimately, share some tips on “replacements” for those coveted dairy-full foods (like cheese!). Today, let’s talk about why anyone would want to go dairy-free.
As I mentioned in my post about going gluten-free, going gluten-free eliminated many of my symptoms. It was like going gluten-free got me 85% of the way there. But I still was having some digestion issues. After a year of adjusting to the gluten-free diet (and learning many of those “there’s gluten in this?” mistakes the hard way!) and feeling like I had the routine down pretty well, I started to try to understand why I was still suffering from intermittent bouts of acid reflux and indigestion. I didn’t want to believe it might be dairy-related. I love cheese too much, I’d tell myself. But I finally buckled down and did an elimination diet where I removed dairy completely for a few weeks. I didn’t notice an immediate difference, like I did with gluten, but when I reintroduced it into my diet, I felt ill. I was nauseous shortly after eating it, and it was downhill from there. (We’re talking acid reflux, bloating, and “things” slowed WAY down.) My sinuses also became very congested. It was strange – even as a child, I remember always getting congested after consuming a large amount of dairy (like ice cream, for instance) and always thought it was normal, until I eliminated it from my diet. It took me a few days to really admit that it was a problem, but it was. I was intolerant to dairy. So in July 2010, I eliminated dairy from my diet. Now, if I accidentally ingest dairy, my reaction is about as severe as it is to gluten.
Dairy can cause a lot of issues for people. Sometimes, with people that are gluten intolerant, the body believes that the protein in milk, casein, is an invader (the structure of the protein is similar to gluten) as well, and the body reacts in an immunological manner much the way it reacts to gluten. I recently read an article referencing an intestinal wash study that showed that 50% of people reacting to gluten in the intestinal tract had an almost identical inflammatory cytokine release on exposure to dairy antigens. That’s a lot of people! Others have true milk allergies, some have lactose intolerance, and some have issues with casein, whey, or both. Symptoms can vary widely and can include:
- hives or rash
- trouble breathing
- nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, wheezing
- nausea, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation or IBS-like symptoms
…and many more. If you think dairy might cause issues for you, you can obtain lactose intolerance tests and milk allergy tests through your doctor. (I actually came back positive for a milk allergy on a test, which helped to confirm what my body was already telling me – I needed to go on a dairy-free diet.) Or just see if you feel better without it by eliminating it from your diet. Alisa at Go Dairy Free is a wealth of information about all things dairy-free, and her book is a life-saver.
In short, we all are unique. What might be benign for one person’s body is poison for another. If you suffer from some of these symptoms and haven’t found relief, it might be worth looking into other food intolerances such as dairy. While there may be a period of transition as you remove offending foods from your diet, the long-term benefit will be well worth it!
Interested in chatting more about other food sensitivities and allergy testing? Join us Monday, July 30, at 8PM ET at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community in a free Live Chat to discuss!