Is It Time To Ditch Dairy? 3 Red Flags To Watch Out For

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Hello dear friends!

For anyone who has been alive over the past 20 years, the white milk mustache has become iconic, and the phrase “got milk?” has become ingrained in our brains. This is all thanks to a huge marketing push in the 90’s backed by the dairy industry, and the revealing of the all-holy food pyramid, which conveniently included a big ol’ chunk of dairy product recommendations. These guidelines were set in stone at the USDA, with all the major players sitting at the table, from every corner of Big Ag, and we gobbled them up (pun intended).

I know I’m not the only one who grew up with a well-meaning parent pouring a cold, nutritious glass of cow’s milk with every meal, and encouraging things like string cheese and yogurt as healthful snacks. We didn’t know better back then. But thankfully that time is over. More and more people are researching the truth about the dairy industry, and what dairy does to our bodies. However, I think it’s even more effective to pay attention to what happens to you after you ingest any kind of dairy product. After all, watching your own body shift in response to a certain food is far more convincing than any news article or documentary ever could be. And trust me, I love documentaries…

Most people cannot actually digest and utilize dairy, despite what they may think, or what their doctor/nutritionist/friend tells them. But often times, the effects of dairy consumption are subtle, tend to be accepted as “normal, everyday” sensations we associate with being alive. However, once you get off the moo for a while, it’s amazing what nagging things tend to clear up! It took me many years to find the right nutritional plan that was right for my body, and it definitely doesn’t include any dairy now. And as I learned and paid attention, these were the three big things that I found to be inextricably linked to my dairy consumption. Perhaps you’re experiencing these too?

1. Acne

Oh man, this one was tough. I have almost always struggled with my skin. Pimples everywhere. Patches of blemishes. And no correlation to my monthly cycle or what products I was putting on my face! I was boggled, and incredibly self-conscious for so long. But just as soon as I was about to give up and just accept that I was going to have regular acne into my late 20’s, I made the switch to a clean dairy-free Paleo diet. About a week in, I woke up one morning to notice that my skin looked pretty clear. After another week, my well-worn tube of concealer lay untouched in the drawer. I was shocked.

Of course, being the scientist that I am, I experimented with different foods off and on to figure out what was causing my acne this whole time. Ding ding ding…dairy! To this day, if I ever indulge in cheese, milk, yogurt, or the like, lo and behold, about 3 days later, I start breaking out. Seriously, friends, if you’ve been frustrated with your blemished skin and have spent hundreds of dollars on products that aren’t making a difference, skip the dairy for a while and see what happens!

2. Congestion

It took me a while to figure this one out, to be honest, even with my knowledge of biochemistry. But after certain meals, I would find it a little harder to breathe. I’d start clearing my throat. My lungs felt a little heavier. My mucous membranes would feel thicker and stickier. I thought maybe it was just allergies or some other environmental irritant. In no way did I think what I ate could have that effect on me. But it sure did.

Dairy is known as a mucous-producing food product, meaning that it encourages your own body to make more of the goop that lines your nasal cavities, airways, and esophagus. And this can prove disastrous for those with asthma, allergies, or other compromised breathing situations. Plus, the immunological effects of dairy mean that this mucous-boosting effect gets worse over time, and can even become an allergic-type reaction. Personally, I notice a dramatic change within about 30 minutes of eating anything dairy, and find myself having to sit up straighter or open my mouth just to get enough air.

3. Bloating

Everyone’s digestive system is different, that’s true, and we all have our particular bloat-inducing foods that make it miserable to exist after mealtimes. Because there are so many things that can cause bloating, I always encourage people to start with an elimination diet, and slowly add back in the foods that are suspect. Over the course of a couple of years, I was able to pinpoint dairy as being my #2 bloat-tastic food (second only to carbonated drinks- duh!), and now can notice a big different in how my pants fit and my overall comfort level!

Despite what “industry science” wants you to believe, most people cannot digest dairy. It may not fall under clinical lactose intolerance, but it’s estimated that over 75% of people worldwide have trouble breaking down the particular fats, proteins, and sugars that are present in cow’s milk. This creates a big ol’ fermentation situation in your gut, as your friendly bacteria churn out gassy byproducts, trying to do something with this dairy you’ve given them. For many people, the severity of this bloating depends on the type of dairy product, so play around and find the ones that trigger you the most.

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I hope that, over the next decade or so, we as a culture can move away from our obsession with milk, and start creating more healthy foods and drinks that don’t contain dairy products. And yes, there are a lot of them, and they are very sneaky! But for now, the more you educate yourself and listen to your own body’s wisdom, the better. So I encourage you to take a little break from all the dairy products that you’re used to, and just see how it goes. You never know- you may end up being able to breathe better, have clearer skin, and fit into smaller pants- along with lots of other benefits.

Let me know how your dairy-free experiment goes, friends! I always love to hear your stories!

So, with or without dairy...

~ Hoping you feel as well as possible ~