The Benefits of a Dairy Free Diet
The Benefits of a Dairy Free Diet
Don’t you find it seems to be increasingly more common these days to hear about food allergies? Everyone seems to know someone with an allergy and dairy allergies including lactose intolerance are no exception.
We get asked the question ‘Should I go dairy-free and why?’ almost on a weekly basis. So we think that maybe the time’s right to look at this in a bit more detail.
What are dairy allergies or intolerances?
A dairy allergy can vary in intensity and occurs as a direct immune system response to a perceived threat towards the protein found in milk. Casein and whey are the two proteins primarily responsible for the allergy symptoms and sometimes ‘shock-like’ reaction called anaphylaxis that is experienced. The symptoms of dairy allergy can vary in intensity and can include rashes, wheezing and shortness of breath, swelling of lips, throat and tongue and vomiting.
What about lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance occurs when the body doesn’t produce a particular digestive hormone called lactase that’s responsible for breaking down lactose sugar. Unlike true dairy allergy that can provoke severe anaphylaxis in some, this generally causes symptoms like bloating, flatulence, stomach pains and cramps, diarrhoea and nausea.
Do we need dairy?
Dairy is undeniably a good source of calcium and vitamin D which helps support healthy bones and also contains protein for building muscle mass. However, there are many other sources of food that calcium and other important minerals like selenium, manganese, chromium and magnesium can be sourced from; like seafood, leafy green vegetables, beans, tofu and dried fruit. Protein can be found in eggs, fish, nuts, soy, lean meat and seeds.
Dairy allergies are reported as being among the most common type of food allergy in the UK today. More babies and children are now becoming allergic to dairy. Reactions can actually become worse over time as we continue to consume dairy products. The very fact that dairy is so problematic for many people would suggest our bodies are not really geared to digest it and so in that case it wouldn’t be ideal to consume it in great amounts, if at all on a daily basis.
Why is dairy thought to be so problematic?
Cow’s milk is made to nourish calves and not humans. Humans produce their own milk to feed their offspring and it differs greatly in composition of calcium, protein, phosphorus, iron and fatty acid profile to cow’s milk. It’s reported that feeding a baby cow’s milk can increase the incidence of developing an allergy. Nearly three quarters of the human population are thought to lose the ability to digest lactose once they’ve been weaned.
Are there links between dairy and other health conditions?
There have been many reports and studies overtime linking dairy to digestive conditions like Crohn’s and coeliac disease and also to cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and asthma.
It’s thought that there are a number of potential reasons for this –
- Acidity of our bodies - because they should remain at neutral or slightly alkaline and cow’s milk is at the top of acid forming foods.
- There’s a poor magnesium-calcium ratio and magnesium plays a big part in cardiovascular health.
- Cow’s milk is high in hormones as they are selectively reared to produce milk – Insulin growth factor (IGF) and oestrogen are linked to disease.
- Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) is linked to childhood onset diabetes. This is where the immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
- Poor nutritional balance – half the calories come from saturated fat and it is high in carbohydrates derived from sugar (lactose) that many people cannot digest. There is a lack of iron and fibre too.
Benefits of going dairy-free
Most people have a feeling they may be lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products but don’t really do anything to find out if it’s all in their heads or not!
Trying a dairy-free diet is the best way to find out because you should begin to feel generally much better after a relatively short time. In fact lots of people have told us that after about 48 hours of being dairy-free they feel their digestion has improved with less bloating and queasiness. They report feeling generally healthier and this includes increased metabolism and energy levels, weight loss, improved skin, reduced candida that can cause headaches, fatigue and diarrhoea.
How do I go dairy-free?
Points to note here are that if you have any underlying health condition or concerns then speak to a medical professional before commencing a dairy-free diet.
With the right substitutions then you really shouldn’t lose out on the important vitamins and minerals required to be healthy. Build items into your daily diet such as portion controlled lean protein, seafood, tofu, legumes, eggs, leafy green vegetables and whole grains. Lack of certain vitamins may be problematic for vegans as they cannot be sourced in in plant based diets. Vitamin B12 levels are thought to be generally okay in vegetarians who eat eggs but vegans tend to need to source fortified foods such as yeast extracts or fortified non-dairy plant based milks. Vitamin A also can’t be sourced in its active form in plant based diets. However, foods rich in beta-carotene like sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, butternut squash, kale, spinach and apricots are the way to go.
In order to have peace of mind that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals when following a dairy-free diet, then you might wish to think about dairy-free meal replacement shakes that are often consumed as daily in the UK. These non GMO protein based shakes contain complimentary vitamins and minerals and are naturally flavoured and sweetened. A great way to balance your dairy-free diet!