It has been the health-craze of the past year to go dairy-free and gluten-free. As a carb-lover I can assure you that gluten free was not something I considered, even though every other page on Facebook is selling “gluten-free bread” or “gluten-free cake.” But dairy-free, on the other hand, seemed like something I could do. I did a little research about why going dairy-free is good for your health and I came across several good reasons for ditching dairy and so I did. Better skin, bye-bye bloated days and improved health – why wouldn’t I go dairy-free?
It was a simple decision, really. Dairy makes me too bloated all the time and therefore, I needed to completely cut it out of my life. For 3 months, I lived on soy-milk lattes, water-based oatmeal and coconut-milk chia puddings. To be honest, I did feel like a much healthier person at the time, I was less bloated than usual and I was constantly looking for new healthy meals to make since my normal dairy-meals were off the table. It was during that time that I decided to start my nutrition certification. But what happened next was the complete opposite of what I expected.
One of the biggest problems I faced when going dairy-free was that I was suddenly consuming soy regularly. A simple Google search would’ve shown me that dark side of soy – but all the research I did about going dairy-free actually recommended soy milk for it’s nutritional value, similar to dairy milk. As it turns out, if consumed regularly and in big quantities, soy may actually have a negative effect on your hormones. Something that I learnt the hard way, and became one of the main reasons that prompted me to change this lactose-free lifestyle I temporarily experimented with.
The second thing that made me reconsider my decision was when I began having digestive problems, despite the fact that I was eating a clean diet at least 80% of the time. I realized that I needed to add probiotics to my diet, and my two options were either to take a pill or yogurt. As someone who prefers the natural way, I found myself questioning why I had eliminated probiotics in the first place. Admittedly, there maybe a few dairy products that do need to be removed from your diet, but there are some dairy foods that actually provide you with many benefits. For example; a cup of milk or yogurt contains vitamin D, Calcium, Vitamin B12 and many other nutrients that our bodies need for development. Greek yogurt contains probiotics that is beneficial to your digestive health, lowers your risk of type II diabetes, helps prevent osteoporosis (a condition where bones become brittle), reduces high blood pressure and boosts the immune system.
After 3 months of an almost 90% dairy-free diet, I gave myself a mild intolerance that I didn’t originally have. As my knowledge and curiosity about food and nutrition increased, so did my awareness that my decision to completely eliminate a food group from my diet was a bit premature and completely uncalled for. To break my dairy-fast, I decided to gradually re-introduce it into my diet. For the first week, I added a little milk in my coffee and everything seemed fine. But all hell broke loose when I decided to take a bite of pizza to test where my body was at. It took TEN DAYS for the all-out painful bloated stomach to go away. My body was refusing the same foods it used to easily digest before. The switch back to dairy was not easy nor graceful.
It took around 2 months for my body to full accept dairy again and I learnt to never make any premature decisions about my body without properly knowing how and why. I came out of this experience with a better knowledge of how my body digests different foods and I learnt that too much dairy is, in fact, not good for you. Just as no dairy at all can also make you dependent on less healthier alternatives, not to mention deprive your body of nutrients and vitamins that it really needs. However. I have developed a balanced relationship with dairy-alternatives that I still add to my diet, and there are days where I will go completely dairy-free. There are benefits to eliminating dairy from your diet, if you are completely lactose intolerant. But as it turns out, my body responds relatively well to dairy so going dairy-free was actually not in my best interest. Our bodies are all different, and what one person can digest isn’t the same for another, and a decision to cut out a certain food group should not be done abruptly without having the proper knowledge about how to do it and how to substitute what it is you are eliminating from your diet with adequately healthy alternatives.