This post is an installment in our 52 Health Hinges series. Remember, “Small hinges swing big doors.”
A while back, I introduced the concept of food sensitivities; so far, we’ve touched on wheat/gluten, eggs, and sugar. Three of what I consider to be the four “big baddies.”
I know, big bummer. And I know what a bummer it is from personal experience; I removed dairy from both of my sons’ diets, as well as my own (sigh).
When I recommend that my clients remove dairy, I see a lot of emotional responses.
I get it – I used to eat yogurt every morning. I was told that it did a body good, so it seemed beyond reason to hear that it might not agree with me.
I had an emotional connection to my morning latte (milk paired with sugar and coffee – what could be better?).
And don’t even get me started on the relationship I had with ice cream.
Anyway – let’s talk about dairy and why it’s worth it for you to investigate whether it’s doing your body good or harm.
Friend or Foe?
As with everything else we’ve discussed so far in our Health Hinge series, Healthful Elements doesn’t offer a “one-size-fits-all” recommendation for dairy. For some, dairy can be a very healthful food; for some, it can cause a whole host of issues, ranging from digestive issues to joint pain to chronic skin issues, like eczema, to recurring ear infections in children.
In order to know what’s right for you, I recommend trying an Elimination Diet, where you eliminate the top food triggers for a number of weeks and introduce them back into your diet in a systematic way where you can monitor how each makes you feel.
According to Chris Kresser, LAc, whether or not you can handle dairy depends on the status of your gut barrier, whether or not you have a gut infection or disorder like SIBO or IBS, if you’re gluten intolerant, or if you’re choosing raw or pasteurized dairy.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of “ifs.”
For the sake of this post, let’s assume that you test yourself and determine that you are, in fact, reacting to dairy, and need to come to terms with your impending breakup.
When this comes up with my clients, the most common questions that I hear are:
- If I don’t eat dairy, how will I get calcium?
- How will I live without my stinky cheese?
Through powerful and memorable moustache advertising, we’ve been led to believe that milk is necessary for calcium and strong bones. But the truth is, there are a lot of other (and often healthier?) foods that are great sources of calcium.
So, the first thing you can do is to ensure you’re getting enough natural calcium in your diet, from foods like:
- nuts (almonds and brazil nuts are highest)
- greens (parsley, collards, dandelion, kale, etc.)
- sea vegetables (hijiki, kelp, wakame are highest)
- sesame seeds/tahini
- canned salmon and sardines with bones
Secondly, understand that some foods can actually leech calcium out of your bones – obviously, you want to stay away from these foods! Refined sugars and carbohydrates (chips, cookies, packaged foods, etc.) and diets excessively high in protein can cause this reaction in order for your body to process these foods.
Stinky Cheese, How I Love Thee
This is when things tend to get emotional. :)
There are many opinions on this topic, and everyone will react differently, so this truly requires an individualized approach and decision.
But if you’re petrified about the idea that you may need to give up your cheese (or yogurt, or ice cream, or whatever your dairy love is), here is my recommendation…
Make a deal with yourself that you’ll try life without dairy for 3-4 weeks. You owe it to yourself to know how your body reacts, right?
Once you have your individual answer, understand that there may be shades of grey when it comes to dairy consumption – both in terms of type, pairing, and quantity.
To explain, let me share a couple examples:
- Type: Some find that they’re able to handle butter and cheese, but can’t tolerate milk.
- Quantity: I can splurge on ice cream if having a special dinner out, but if I go too far I get really congested and get a small itchy spot on my left leg. (Seriously…if you have any nose-pickers in your family, it may be a physical reaction to an over-production of mucous. Remove the dairy and see what happens.)
- Pairing: One of my clients finds that she tolerates cheese alone, but reacts to it when it’s paired with a grain (i.e. as part of a gluten-free pizza).
So, you may find that if you dump the milk and yogurt for a while, there may be space in your life for the stinky cheese after all.
If you do choose to drink milk and eat dairy, please do opt for high-quality, hormone-free, and full-fat choices, won’t you?
Crazy stuff, huh? Like I said, we’re all different, so this can get a little difficult to navigate through, but it’s well worth it when you notice nagging symptoms clear and you feel healthier and happier.
If you’re interested in digging for your root cause but could use some support, I would love nothing more than to help you through it. Nothing.