Many people are making the choice to give up dairy. To become completely dairy-free, you will need to remove butter, milk, cheese, ice cream, cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt and ghee from your diet. Note: this would be a key time to start reading labels, as many baked goods, packaged foods and desserts with chocolate contain dairy. However, there are many delicious and healthy alternatives: almond or oat milk is a perfect substitution for milk, and products like tofu cream cheese, vegan butter, coconut milk ice cream, dark chocolate, and non-dairy cheese make for a smooth transition away from the world of dairy.
But why give up dairy in the first place? Some people list “weight loss” as a key component in their decision, but this makes me wary. Certainly eating plain Greek yogurt, having goat cheese in a salad, and putting a splash of milk in your coffee should not lead to weight gain. But if you are eating unhealthy foods like pizza, Mac and Cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and ice cream sundaes, then you will absolutely lose weight when giving up dairy. It may be worth examining HOW you are getting your dairy in this situation: fried mozzerella sticks or yogurt and berries.
The most common reason that I hear from people, and the one that leads me to advice them to stop eating ALL DAIRY products, is gastrointestinal “distress.” Many people suffer from lactose intolerance but continue to eat dairy because they have simply “learned to live with it. “They are plagued with bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, gas, and cramping which certainly is miserable to live with day in and day out. Anyone with Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, Celiac or IBD should definitely try a three-week dairy elimination diet to see if their symptoms improve. In my experience, they ALWAYS do. People cannot believe what a life changer it can be for their stomach issues when they remove dairy, and start using the non-dairy substitutes I listed above. Most people never go back to dairy after a month of pain free existence! It is simply not worth it for a Hershey’s kiss.
Another common complaint from dairy eaters is skin conditions. Experts believe that the animal hormones found in dairy can wreak havoc on your skin, causing hormonal breakouts and acne on your face, chest and back. Even if you drink organic milk, most dairy cows are pregnant, so you cannot escape consuming bovine pregnancy hormones — no thanks! Your skin is your largest organ, and we already know that whatever you are ingesting will play a role in your skin health — and drinking milk is no different. Other people who are plagued with psoriasis and eczema are amazed by the improvements to their skin when they follow my recommendation to quit dairy for three weeks. After years of applying unpleasant topical creams and taking prescription meds, their skin “miraculously” cleared up in the absence of cheese paninis and ice cream.
A final worthy note is that dairy does have several redeeming qualities, so it is not necessary to give it up entirely, especially if your body is able to digest it properly. Dairy is a wonderful source of calcium, Vitamin D and protein, which is important for bone health and building muscle mass. However there are many other sources for these nutrients which are dairy free. Dark leafy greens like kale and fish like salmon are great sources of calcium. Almond milk, eggs, and of course taking a walk in the sunshine are perfect ways to get Vitamin D. Fish, chicken, nuts, seeds and beans are excellent protein sources. If you do opt to give up dairy for a three-week elimination diet, remember to supplement your diet with these foods to ensure you are getting proper nutrition.
I wish you luck on your “trial” and look forward to hearing any changes and improvements you notice in the absence of dairy. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover there is life without milk!