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Is dairy doing you dirty?


Original artwork by Sharon Cummings

Looking back on it, dairy and I have never really gotten along.  It’s been more of a one-sided relationship from the beginning, a love affair really- one I was fully invested in. When I was younger and less than particular about my diet I would indulge without question or concern. As a consequence I often suffered bloating, constipation, gas and diarrhea. Honestly it was so commonplace that I never gave it much thought. It was my active interest in nutrition and body awareness that raised concern for my aggravated digestive system.

There is a tremendous amount of evidence supporting the disruption dairy can cause on digestion. I took note and began weening off the teat. Swapping almond for cow’s milk and Soy Delicious for Haagen-Dazs was less than pleasurable- but I had to admit, it was doing the trick.

As my nutritional understanding grew, my diet evolved. I became more rigid about the source of my food and its inherent purpose. I grew weary of food in disguise- if you’re a sausage link, be a quality nitrate and hormone-free pork sausage and not a soy bean in disguise. I was convinced that the dirty dairy propaganda was just that- propaganda; that the real source of digestive upset was due to the harmful growth hormones and unnatural feed mass produced livestock is subject to. So I changed the game. I began indulging once again, this time in high-quality, hormone-free cottage cheese, raw cow’s milk, and organic whole fat ice cream. Yay!

My celebration was short lived. The digestive warfare returned, this time in different form. Along with the bloating, gas and inconsistent stool, I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. It felt like a twisting knot. This muted pain arose daily and persisted for weeks. Naturally, I grew concerned. I cook 90% of my meals at home. I eat meticulously clean (compared to your average), and am diligent about purchasing well-sourced animal products. What the hell could be going wrong. I researched allergies, bacterias and parasites before deciding to start with what I know.

I was well aware that dairy is the number one contributor to irregular digestive function and upset bowels. Dairy was a reasonable place to start. An elimination diet readily followed: 7 days entirely dairy-free followed by a delightful day of over-indulgence. I never made it to the indulgence. 3 days in, my system was back on track and my symptoms vanished. Bittersweet I suppose.

Am I suggesting that dairy is harmful for everyone? Certainly not.

Every body is different. Our individualized molecular makeup ensures we have different nutritional needs. There is also a great deal to be said for blood type, genetic construct and lineage (all topics I’ll be sure to address in future posts).

No one diet works for all.

What I am suggesting is that you begin experimenting. When something goes wrong with your system start with what you know. Elimination diets are one of the most effective ways to target likely suspects. An elimination diet requires that you remove the suspect food (entirely) from your diet for a full week. On the eighth day reintroduce the food into your system and examine the results. If your symptoms drop off during the elimination and reappear soon after your indulgence BOOM, there’s your culprit.

Here are a few common criminals:

  1. Unreasonable fatigue, dizziness, gastrointestinal issues, skin rashes, and joint pain are likely symptoms of a GLUTEN ALLERGY (CELIAC) OR SENSITIVITY.

  2. Hives, eczema, and general itching could more than likely be the result of SOY.

  3. Skin irritation and/or rash, diarrhea, stomach pain (cramping), gas, and bloating are potential symptoms of a DAIRY ALLERGY or INTOLERANCE.

Cheers to assuming responsibly over your own health and wellness! Feel free to share your results!

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