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dairy-free comfort food – biscuits and gravy, “bacon” tofu, grits and sweet potato hash

Have you ever blown your stuffy nose only to not get anything out of it? Yet, the inability to breathe clearly is still there (air is flowing, but just a little), both in your nose and higher into your head? Maybe you have a sinus headache developing? Do you know what I’m talking about?

This was a common feeling I had before I went dairy-free.  Now, my air passageways are as clear as can be (not inflamed and narrowed like they used to be).  I rarely blow my nose and if I do, it’s a second-long blow that generates nothing.

I don’t mean to surprise or offend you with my straight talk, but I think I may not be the only person who has experienced this.  If you know what I’m talking about, it’s possible you may have a sensitivity to dairy – and could feel a whole lot better trying a dairy elimination diet.  In fact, you will not know how much better you will feel before you try eliminating dairy.  I still can’t believe how clearly I can breathe, that I have no more post-nasal drip, and rarely cough.

dairy-free (and egg-free) broccoli quiche

This is the third post in my Dairy-Free Series.  If this is the first post you’re reading, check out the first post on my personal story and the second post on how to remove dairy.

If you are returning, thanks for coming back and a big thank you to all my new readers from Go Dairy Free! I am so happy you are here and hope that you will turn to kidoing! for dairy-free recipes and links to my favorite dairy-free recipes on sites I love.

Today I’m going to talk about what some experts say about dairy.  By experts, I mean either doctors who specialize in nutrition science and registered dieticians or nutritionists.  I will share with you my thoughts on how I ensure my family and I are getting enough vitamin D and calcium, plus feature some personal stories from friends of mine who have gone dairy-free.

For the past several years, I’ve been on an obsessive journey to create the best nutritional approach for my family.  After suffering for years with virus after virus, sinus infection, chronic bronchitis, etc, my family and I had to take drastic steps to help ourselves.  Going to our physician’s office just wasn’t working.  The flu shot made us sicker and just how much tylenol, motrin and antibiotics for recurring infections can you endure with no marked improvement in health?

a small sampling of the nutrition books and dairy-free cookbooks I’ve been reading…

I wrote about our family’s transition to a nutritarian diet on the FIMBY web site a while back.  A nutritarian diet is a diet in which micronutrients are emphasized for improved health.  Our diet is plant-based, with very little to no animal products.  We don’t use any refined white sugar in our house.  We have been making this transition for the past couple years and find ourselves in the best place, healthwise, we’ve ever been in.  And, now we are dairy-free.  🙂

Cause of Dairy Symptoms – Twofold:

1.  Lactose

Humans need the enzyme lactase in our bodies in order to digest the lactose, or milk sugar, in dairy products.  When you are born, most babies have lactase to digest mother’s milk.  However, as you age (usually around the time of weaning from mother’s milk), the amount of lactase in your body decreases.  As it decreases, you lose the ability to comfortably digest the lactose in dairy.

2.  Proteins (Whey, Casein, Etc.)

Whey and casein are milk proteins that many people are very sensitive to, or very allergic to, and many people don’t realize it.  I, for one, had no idea that these proteins could be the cause of my discomfort.  While I never felt great after eating dairy, I never labeled myself as lactose intolerant and, therefore, didn’t consider dairy to be an issue.

However, the proteins account for many issues.  Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre, MS, CN report in their book The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook that “There are at least 30 antigenic primary proteins in milk.  Milk proteins are listed on food labels with a variety of names such as milk solids, skim milk powder, casein, caseinates, whey and albumin.” Segersten and Malterre list a slew of symptoms associated with a dairy insensitivity including abdominal bloating and pain, chronic headaches, ear infections, asthma, hay fever, eczema, and many more.  They say that a dairy elimination diet has helped many of their patients relieve ailments without additional medication.  See page 11 and 12 in The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook for further details.

Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of Eat to Live and Disease Proof Your Child (amongst other titles) has written about the connection between dairy and cancer, as well as how cheese induces acid load and therefore increases calcium loss (pg 108 in Eat to Live).  Dr. Fuhrman believes that dairy is the perfect food for calves and not for human babies.  He says its saturated fat content is meant to increase weight of calves very quickly, but when we feed it to our children it puts weight on them unnaturally.  On page 67 of his book Disease Proof Your Child, Dr. Fuhrman says “…the leading cause of digestive intolerance leading to stomach complaints is dairy products.  Many kids have subtle allergies to cow’s milk that perpetuate their nasal congestion, leading to ear infections.  Cow’s milk protein is the leading cause of food allergies in children.  Also, many children are lactose intolerant…”

After a recent screening of Forks Over Knives (now streaming on Netflix) that I attended, there was a panel discussion featuring Rip Esselstyn (author of the Engine 2 Diet and son of Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic), Christina Pirello, MFN, CCN, and Ana M. Negron, MD, amongst others.  Everyone on the panel wholeheartedly agreed that dairy has no place in our diets.  I will leave you with an essay on dairy from Dr. Negron.  She works with her patients to help them learn how to eat well and cook for themselves, especially teaching them to cook greens on her aptly named web site Greens on a Budget.

Obviously, I have just skimmed the surface of health experts who denounce the need for dairy in our diets.  I encourage you to read the books I’ve referred to (and those pictured above), which no doubt will lead you to a whole host of others.

So, how do we get our calcium and vitamin D?

Since we have a plant-based diet, we eat a lot of greens, cruciferous vegetables, and calcium-set tofu.  According to Jack Norris, ND, and Ginny Messina, MPH, RD in their book Vegan For Life, kale, collards and broccoli (frequent guests at our table) provide calcium absorption at a rate of 50%, approximately 25% higher than cow’s milk.  Other sources include tahini, almonds, figs, and fortified plant milks.

Vitamin D is fortified in cow’s milk; it doesn’t occur naturally.  So, we aim to get outside daily, since the sun is the best source of Vitamin D, we eat other fortified foods such as soy milk or bran flakes or we supplement (especially in the winter months).

delicious dairy-free vegetable curry

And, now, three additional personal stories from friends who’ve given up dairy.  Thank you so much, ladies, for sharing your triumphs over dairy!

Casey’s Story:

I did not enter this dairy free world by choice; I agreed to a seven day trial due to a chronic sinus infection and can count on one hand how many times I’ve had dairy since.  I did not happily go into this venture, but within one week, I felt like a new person.  Hopeful that it was a fluke, I had dairy and felt its effects immediately.  I had an upset stomach, the “walking farts” and mucus filling my head and lining my throat.  I had never associated dairy with feeling badly, but I am amazed at how ill I feel with even the smallest quantities.  I have lost weight, avoided major sinus surgery and enjoy overall improved health.

a photo from Renee’s kitchen (FIMBY) – making homemade almond milk

Renee’s Story:

Our family came to plant based eating via a somewhat usual route. We eliminated dairy first, meat second.

We made this change years ago because my husband was looking for nutritional answers to his eczema and allergies. Dairy was the first to go as he worked towards slowly healing his body. Next was meat and since then most refined foods.

But it all started with dairy. What have we gained making this change?

We are rarely, rarely sick. I’m not sure how much of that is because we eat very little dairy or because of all the good stuff we eat instead. A bit of both I think. No more eczema and allergies for my husband – this is also in part to restricting gluten. No allergies or asthma in our children, almost unheard of in modern society. No sinus infections or perpetually running noses.

We still have small amounts of dairy occasionally (10 years into this journey and I’m still not totally free of my cheese addiction), often paying for it with a phlegmy throat. But I’d say our nearly dairy-free diet, along with a focus on nutrient dense eating has afforded us excellent health.

And that is worth ‘giving something up’ because it turns out you’re not giving something up at all but gaining your health and the freedom that comes with that.

Leah’s Story:

When something is so ingrained in a society, it’s rare to question it. That’s how I felt about diary. It’s handed out in schools, the pediatrician instructed me to give it to my kids every day twice a day, and “it does a body good,” right? (The Dairy Counsel has the best marketing ever!)  But when I ate dairy foods, I had painful bloat, gas, and terrible belly pain. Was that a big enough clue that I shouldn’t eat dairy? No! But I did begin to limit my choices. I gave up ice cream, butter and yogurt first.

Then one day, I happened to be at a conference and the key note speaker was Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study. What I heard blew my mind. I bought the book, and the more I read, the less dairy I ate. After that book, I found other books about the perils of dairy and just how bad it is for us. Organic or not, we should not be eating the breast milk of another mammal.

Then one day, I over did the diary and experienced such excruciating belly pain. With that episode, along with everything I read, I vowed never to eat dairy again.

I knew the digestive discomfort would go away, but I was happily surprised when I experienced no more post nasal drip, sore throats, ear pain, thick mucus in my sinuses and hay fever symptoms. Life without diary is possible and it was much easier than I thought. Try it for three weeks. Your body will thank you.

How about you? Do you have a personal story to share about how dairy has impacted you, or someone close to you? Are you struggling with the idea of going dairy-free?

Please check back in a week or so for the fourth and final post in my Dairy-Free Series with a video on how to make non-dairy banana “ice cream”, a rich and delicious treat we eat year round instead of dairy ice cream.  I’ll also include some links to recent non-dairy favorites!

I hope this has provided you with more “food for thought” on the issue of dairy in your diet.

Be well,

Jennifer

PS – Did you know that kidoing! has a page on Facebook? “Like” kidoing! where I post quips about what I’m cooking as well as links to health-related articles and favorite recipes.

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