When I started this blog, I intended to feature posts about how you can involve your kids in the kitchen to help them develop a love of fresh, home-cooked food (mostly nutrient dense fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds).  I’ve tried to stick close to this topic, but from time to time I find something that is so important to share I can’t hold back.

In this post, I am talking about dairy (from cows).

From infant’s formula to milk to cheese to yogurt and cream…

These foods are presented to parents and children by pediatricians, and of course the multi-billion dollar dairy industry, as nourishing and necessary for healthy and normal development.  These foods are probably in most families’ refrigerators…in fact, I’d be willing to bet that mom or dad goes out of the way to purchase them at all hours of the day or night for fear that something will happen to the children if they don’t have them.

What we found in our house is the exact opposite of what we’ve been conditioned to believe…milk:  it does NOT do a body good.

If you, or someone in your family, have experienced one or more of the following health conditions I urge you to continue reading.

  • frequent colds
  • long-lasting coughs (with or without pneumonia)
  • sinus infections
  • bronchitis
  • ear infections
  • chronic stuffy nose or runny nose (especially in kids)
  • severe seasonal allergies
  • asthma
  • frequent intestinal distress

We made a choice on January 1, 2011 to become dairy-free.  It was one of the very best decisions we have made, one that affects me and my family positively every single day of our lives.

This is the first post in my Dairy-Free Series.  Three subsequent posts will cover how to make the transition, what the nutrition experts say about dairy plus a few other dairy-free family stories, and finally a video recipe/tutorial of banana dairy-free ice cream.

I am writing this in hopes of helping other people who have suffered with this.  I am not a doctor and would always advise to consult your health care practitioner.  However, I can say that throughout my life, I have visited numerous doctors for chronic sinusitis and chronic bronchitis, yet no doctor advised that dairy could be the cause of my extreme and recurring symptoms.  The only treatment that has been working for me is a dairy elimination diet.

Before I go any further, I want you to know that before going dairy-free we ate cheese and yogurt every day and my oldest child drank milk twice a day.  Ice cream was a frequent “treat”.  Dairy was a big part of our lives.  If you told me that one day I would be dairy-free I would have looked at you cross-eyed and said “I could NEVER give up dairy.”

We enjoyed dairy immensely, but it was making us sick.

We didn’t even realize it was making us sick until I decided to stop dairy in hopes of helping my son with his chronic constipation problem.*

When we used dairy it was always organic, then for about 18 months we bought grass fed, organic raw milk (and some cheese) from two local farmers we trusted.  Now, looking back, there was NO difference between pasteurized and raw milk when it came to our health and daily well-being.

And, contrary to what a lot of people say (including one very high profile “traditional foods” dairy lobbying group), my lactose intolerant husband did not digest raw milk (including raw milk yogurt or raw milk cheese) any better than pasteurized milk.

And now on to my story of how dairy was making us sick.

Dairy caused excess mucus production leading to frequent infections and constant everyday discomfort.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had to clear my throat many times after eating.  It was something that was so common it became normal to me.

Often, I had been sick with colds that would transform into more severe illnesses such as chronic bronchitis and chronic sinusitis…coughing so badly I was brought to my knees on several occasions, with pain in my chest that almost made me cry…mucus so thick in my lungs I almost couldn’t breathe.  I can remember, during bouts of these illnesses, blowing my nose much longer than a reasonably normal noseblow.

Many days I drove my daughter to school and was not able to answer her questions because I had to clear my throat, trying to either swallow or cough, in order to breathe.

I can remember reading to my children and having to stop and walk away.  Again, I couldn’t breathe.  The mucus was so thick in the back of my throat, if I didn’t expel some of it there would have been trouble.  Yes, I was choking, and it felt as if someone had poured a cup of jello down my throat and wouldn’t let me breathe to swallow it.

Not once during the DECADES of suffering, did I ever think I had a problem with dairy.  It never ever occurred to me.

My husband, a lover of cheese, frequently had bouts of sleep apnea and rousing nightmares waking him to stir breathing.  Scary? OH YES.

Milk:  it does a body good.  Right?

We need it for strong bones.  Right?

It’s a natural, whole food and necessary for a healthy body.  Right?

Those are the messages that assault us every day, wherever you go.  You can’t get away from some message promoting dairy, or a product made with dairy.

I never thought of removing dairy from my diet until I was at my wit’s end with my son’s chronic constipation problem.  For about a year he had this problem.  It was very uncomfortable for him and stressful for my husband and I.  We tried many things and nothing seemed to work long term.  I decided one day to stop dairy on a whim – just to see what would happen.

At that time, my son was eating cheese and yogurt regularly, and I was eating dairy throughout the day.  Since I was nursing him, I needed to abstain from dairy, too. I tried not to think too hard about this and, to be honest, I didn’t have a plan in place.  I just knew I had to try going dairy-free.

My husband and daughter gradually used up the rest of the few dairy products we had, then they went “dairy-free”, too, as a gesture of unity for my son and me.

What happened after just a few days was nothing short of miraculous.  I am not kidding.

It did not cure my son’s constipation problem, but it changed our lives in so many ways.

Gone was the throat clearing.

Gone was the post nasal drip.

Gone was the stuffy “morning” nose.

What I did find was that I had a lightness in my head and chest that I never experienced before.  I could breathe clearly.  There was so much air flow through my nostrils.  I had no congestion in my chest.  I could run faster and had more energy.  I could think more clearly because I wasn’t constantly sidetracked by my physical impairments caused by dairy.

I was able to read my children a book from cover to cover without stopping.

Over the next six months:

We realized that my husband’s seasonal allergies in the spring and fall had abated.  They were mild, at most.  He had suffered for much of his adult life with stuffy nose, runny eyes, coughing, sneezing, etc.  Without dairy, his allergies have been barely noticeable.

My husband’s nighttime breathing has improved dramatically.  I can attest to what seems like more restful sleep for him.

We realized that we had fewer colds and runny noses.  In previous years, we were sick constantly.  From what I have learned about the immune system, there are many reasons we become sick.  However, I believe that dairy inflames our mucus membranes allowing there to be a greater potential for viruses to settle into our bodies.

Prior to removing dairy, we had been sick with numerous viruses, but after removing dairy we have been sick with nasal congestion just one time that I can remember.  Coincidence? It’s possible, but unlikely.

I feel so strongly about staying dairy-free (how I feel now outweighs any satisfaction I would get from eating dairy), that I have no desire to eat anything from dairy.  I don’t want to go back to how I used to feel.  And, the best part is all the alternatives to dairy, which I’ll be talking about in the next post where I discuss how we transitioned to dairy-free.  We gave a lot up, BUT we added a wide variety of nutrient dense and amazingly delicious alternatives to our diets.

Stay tuned for my next post called “Dairy-Free:  Where Do I Start?”

If you’ve noticed any dairy-related health conditions or have any questions for me, please leave them in the comments or email me directly at jennifer at kidoing dot com.

This is our story about how becoming dairy-free changed our lives.  Can you relate to anything I’ve said here? Do you have any stories to share?

*My son’s chronic constipation has resolved by using probiotics, lots of legumes and increased water consumption.