There are many reasons people try excluding dairy products from their diet, not least because they think they have a reaction to them. In reality, nothing should be excluded without proper diagnosis of an issue with the food – sometimes stress or other factors could be at the root of your symptoms, so excluding a whole food group is not only unnecessary, but could compromise your health.
If, however, you have been diagnosed with a condition that requires the exclusion of dairy, here’s some advice on how to do it.
Mother’s milk is the perfect food for infants as it contains vitamins, minerals and essential fats. However, it also requires a special enzyme (lactase) to digest the milk sugar (lactose). Problems arise when we lose the ability to produce this enzyme (15% of Caucasians and 80% Africans and Asians), and thus become lactose intolerant, which is different from a milk allergy.
Lactose intolerance can lead to digestive discomfort including bloating, wind, cramping, diarrhoea and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. As dairy products can trigger excess mucus production, consumption can lead to blocked sinuses, itchy nose, throat and lips and a build up of phlegm in the morning. Dairy is also one of the main culprits in ear infections (commonly called Glue Ear). Symptoms of intolerance may not manifest until a day or two later making it difficult to identify culprit foods.
Below is a list of foods which contain dairy products and a list of alternative foods to eat in place of dairy products. This is to help with your meal choices when shopping and eating out. Remember to read labels when you are out shopping, and don’t be afraid to ask about ingredients when you are eating out. Many restaurants are very good about catering for intolerances these days.
Foods to avoid
· Dairy products hidden in many processed foods such as biscuits, sauces, cereals, cakes, soups, chocolate bars, margarine, bread, salad dressing
· Dairy products disguised as other names such as casein, whey, lactoferrin, lactalbumin
Alternatives to dairy
· In place of milk – rice milk, oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk. Avoid soya milk.
· In place of butter – olive oil, nut butters (e.g. cashew or almond – no added sugar), tahini, etc.
· In sandwiches and salads instead of cheese – hummus, chicken, sardines, tuna, salmon, egg, etc.
· In place of yoghurt – coconut yoghurt, or other alternatives – avoid soya yogurt or highly processed alternatives.
Alternative sources of calcium
· Dark green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, cabbage, watercress
· Nuts and seeds (especially sesame)