Is Dairy Deadly?

  • June
    23

    I EAT A DAIRY-FREE DIET, most of the time.
    Just like gluten-free or sugar-free, these restricted ways of eating have become more popular over the last year or so. It seems like people are turning their noses up at people who drink cow’s milk or eat ice cream. To be honest, I’m jealous.

    I miss my yogurts and cheeses, but I do have them in moderation and have found some great non-dairy alternatives.

    So why do I eat dairy-free? Is it because it’s unhealthy, of the hormones, or the inhumane way they treat cows… well no (I like my steaks too much). I don’t eat cow dairy because it makes me bloated, lethargic, stinky (BO and farts) and I get some nasty brain fog.

    Most people think that if they can’t digest dairy it’s because they are lactose intolerant. But in fact, unless you are running to the bathroom with explosive diarrhea within 30 minutes of eating dairy, most likely you are sensitive to a protein in dairy (ie. Casein)

    Is Dairy Bad for You?

    Cow’s milk is an excellent source of protein, carbohydrate, fat and calcium. If it is well tolerated, milk products make for healthy snacks (even the full fat milk can be ok in moderation). Although carbs and fats can lead to weight gain, the proteins also help satiate a robust appetite and cut food cravings. Having 1-3 servings of dairy a day can contribute to a well-balanced diet.

    However, if you’re like me and feel worse when you ingest milk products, it’s best to eat them in minimal proportions and to find some healthy protein and fat alternatives.

    What is Lactose?

    Lactose is a sugar complex (disaccharide) found in milk products that is not digested without the help of lactase. Lactase is the enzyme that breaks lactose into its 2 single molecule forms: galactose and glucose, which are able to be absorbed by the gut lining and into the bloodstream and cells.

    Without lactase, lactose cannot be absorbed by the body and it builds up in the gut. As the body tries to find a balance of solvents (particles) and solutes (liquid), the lactose particles attracts water through osmosis. When you have a lot of particles and liquid in the GIT (gastrointestinal tract) it promotes evacuation and diarrhea (explosively). This is what lactose intolerance looks like. Is this your experience?

    What is Casein?

    Casein is a type of protein found in cow and most animal milk. It makes up approximately 80% of the proteins in cow’s milk and is often the culprit for trouble digesting dairy. People who don’t handle dairy well can have a casein sensitivity or intolerance to this protein, leading to several inflammatory responses. Read on to find out the difference between casein intolerance, sensitivity and allergy.

    Cow dairy is found in milk products such as:

    Cow’s milk Margarine Hot chocolate
    Goat’s milk* Most creamy dressings Chocolate milk
    Dried milk solids Yogurt Sour cream
    Butter Ice cream Cream cheese
    Cheese, curds Cream Condensed milk
    Casein, caseinate Lactose, lactalbumin Whey

    *Goat’s milk has significantly less casein and lactose than cow’s milk.

    Many prepared foods, soups, appetizers, frozen dinners, sauces and desserts will have some dairy components. Some people are okay when milk products are cooked (denaturing of dairy proteins), while others still have issues. If you are trying a dairy-free diet for 1-3 weeks, I would suggest preparing all your meals to ensure you aren’t getting unsuspecting bits of dairy into your meals and causing accurate results.

    What is Whey?

    Whey is the milk residues in the process of making cheese or yogurt, which contains lactose and casein. Whey is a common source of protein powder and has the greatest concentration of protein per serving of all protein powders.

    Dairy Allergy, Intolerance, and Sensitivity

    Food intolerances and sensitivities can come and go, even allergies at time. Sometimes when we are under great stress, eating poorly, or taking medications, we will notice more reactions. Sometimes we will grow into an intolerance or out of a sensitivity, especially as children when our immune systems are still developing.

    If lactose or casein is ingested by a person with a dairy sensitivity or intolerance, it results in an inflammatory response which damages the intestinal lining of the gut leading to malabsorption of other nutrients (aka. Leaky Gut Syndrome- see more below).

    Dairy allergy is often identified early on in infancy with excessive crying and discomfort as seen with colic. Researchers have found that IgE antibodies to egg are the earliest to be detected in infancy, followed by cow dairy antibodies. At infancy, rates of sensitization to food allergies are highest at 10%, then decrease to 3% by age 6.

    Food allergies stimulate and IgE immune response (aka. Type I Hypersensitivity/ Anaphylactic reaction). There is a clear cause and effect with rapid onset whereby mast cells and basophiles release histamine when exposed to an allergen (ie. dairy) and cause an inflammatory response (red, swollen, itchy) that varies from uncomfortable to life threatening

    Dairy intolerance affects people who lack the enzymes required to break down dairy protein, such as lactose. The most common symptoms are explosive diarrhea, excessive gas, low energy and fatigue, dehydration, and/or malnutrition.

    Dairy sensitivity is a delayed hypersensitivity immune response (IgG) occurs when a sensitized person repeatedly eats dairy over a short period of time. The effects progress more gradually and are non-specific and often dose-dependent. Symptoms can vary from migraines to cognitive ‘brain fog’, to behavioural difficulties in children with ADHD, to chronic digestive concerns (constipation, diarrhea, excessive gas, IBS, IBD), to skin issues (acne, eczema, atopic dermatitis), to low energy, weight gain, water retention, joint pain, and increased yeast, fungal and sinus infections.

    Inflammation of the small intestine disrupts the mucosal cells and allows large molecules (ie. food) to pass through the tightly packed cells of the mucosal lining. Small disruptions are often no problem for the GIT but excessive inflammation can allow these large particles to pass the gut lining and into the blood stream where antibodies will be created to these ‘foreign bodies’. This is known as leaky gut syndrome. Now that the body has created ‘food antibodies’, the next time you ingest that food you will have an IgG response.

    Leaky gut syndrome allows large particles to pass through the tightly packed mucosal cells to enter the blood stream. Photo credit: Kitchen Stewardship

    Leaky gut syndrome allows large particles to pass through the tightly packed mucosal cells to enter the blood stream. Photo credit: Kitchen Stewardship

    Sometimes food particles have similar structures as molecules in your body and the antibodies can start to attack your own cells. This is called autoimmunity and can take on many different forms, such as:

    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Addison’s disease
    • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
    • Graves’ disease
    • Multiple Sclerosis
    • Psoriasis

    Testing for dairy sensitivities measures for an immune system antibody called IgG.

    • In vivo (in/on the body) – muscle testing or energetic tests
    • In vitro (in a lab) – IgG blood sample with finger prick

    Muscle testing, applied kinesiology, and energetic tests are controversial. The idea is that the patient holds a vial of a food antigen and the body will weaken in strength if there is a sensitivity. Physical strength is manually tested by the practitioner, which offers a level of bias (conscious and unconscious). There are also various energetic tests that measure a person’s response to the potential food trigger, dairy.

    I also have issues with the current IgG tests and often find them to be unreliable. I know colleagues who have sent in multiple tests of the same blood sample to different lab companies and even the same labs with varying results. Some patients have even shown to be highly sensitive to foods they have never eaten before.

    Until IgG tests become more accurate and reproducible, I still prefer taking a more practical approach to identifying potential food sensitivities with the hypo-allergenic diet (we’ll take a closer look at this test later in the article).

    What are Dairy-Free Foods?

    The following dairy-like products are free of cow dairy, lactose and casein:

    Rice Coconut Soy*
    Almond Cashew Hemp
    Cashew Brazil nut Quinoa
    Oat Potato Sunflower

    *Be cautious of substituting with soy milk because it is also a common food sensitivity
    **See the Plant Powered Diet by Sharon Palmer, RD for a macronutrient chart of various milk substitute products

    What About Calcium?

    It’s a common misconception that cow’s milk is the best source of calcium. Although it is high in calcium, limiting dairy will NOT lead to calcium deficiency. The average adult needs approximately 1000mg of Calcium per day.

    You can easily achieve this by having leafy greens (ie. kale, collard greens, spinach, arugula), soy (milk, tofu), raw figs, fortified beverages, multi-grains, fish, bone broth and black strap molasses. See a full list of calcium-rich foods HERE.

    Where Can I Find Dairy-Free Products?

    Since dairy sensitivity and intolerance is becoming more common, it is much easier to find dairy-free products. Yes, health food stores have the best variety in products, but many chain grocery stores are beginning to carry dairy-free products

    But remember, just because something is dairy-free, doesn’t mean it is healthy. These two terms are not synonymous. Many dairy-free products substitute with other products that may not agree with your digestive system (ie. egg, soy, corn) or be supportive to your health.

    It’s usually easy to modify recipes with cow’s milk for dairy substitutes or water. Get creative in the kitchen and try going dairy-free for a week to see if you have a possible sensitivity or intolerance.

    How to test yourself for food sensitivities, at home and for FREE?

    The Hypo-Allergenic Diet is a great tool that I use with my patients to test for all food sensitivities, including dairy.

    I completed my first hypo-allergenic diet in my 3rd year of medical school. It was challenging but insightful. Never in a million years would I have guessed a major food sensitivity to be SOY.

    Being Chinese, my family is used to eating a lot of soy products: soya sauce, tofu, fermented bean curd, edamame, miso, soya nuts, soya milk. I knew that I was sensitive to cow dairy and when I switched from cow milk to soy milk I was still experiencing bloating, gas, stomach pains, and fatigue. It seems obvious looking back now, but at the time I never imagined someone with a Chinese background could have difficulties ingesting soy.

    Hypo-Allergenic is also known as Oligoantigenic or Elimination diet.

    This means that we avoid eating the most common ingredients that cause people inflammation and digestive issues. IT IS NOT A DIET TO LOSE WEIGHT. It should be viewed more as a food sensitivity TEST.

    The top 5 food offenders include: wheat, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs.

    Note that some of the foods on the list are very nutritious, so if you are not sensitive to the food, bring them back into your diet (ie. eggs).

    Also remember, many non-gluten foods may not be healthy. Just because they remove those ingredients does not mean they haven’t replaced them with other poorer quality ingredients.

    Try and stay away from packaged, canned, processed and deep fried foods. And be cautious of dehydrated and dried foods for they often contain added sugars and preservatives. Raw and fresh is often your best bet for optimal health.

    To get your free comprehensive Hypo-Allergenic eManual including dietary guidelines, recipes for a 7-day meal plan, shopping lists, and food re-introduction schedule, sign-up HERE.

    A thorough elimination and re-introduction is not easy, which makes the IgG blood tests more appealing to many. The hypo-allergenic diet takes 6-8 weeks to fully complete with lots of meal planning and having the people you live with (and possibly cook for) on board. If a full hypo-allergenic diet is not plausible for you at this time, you can modify the test by eliminating one food at a time, for example gluten.

    Use a re-introduction schedule to keep track of your symptoms:

    1. Eliminate dairy for 1 week (how do you feel?)
    2. On the 8th day, eat 3 servings of dairy (ie. milk, cheese, yogurt, etc)
    3. If you have no change in symptoms, wait another couple of days while keeping your other foods consistent
    4. If you do have an aggravation, avoid eating dairy for 1 month then slowly start adding it back into your diet in reduced quantity and frequency

    To get your free comprehensive Hypo-Allergenic eManual including dietary guidelines, recipes for a 7-day meal plan, shopping lists, and food re-introduction schedule, sign-up HERE.

    HypoAllerg*For Daily Dose Subscribers, you’re manual is already downloaded into your worksheets page.


This website is NOT to be used as a diagnostic or treatment tool. Always consult with your Conventional Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor for specific concerns. In cases of medical emergencies visit your nearest hospital or call 9-1-1.