Why I Went Dairy-Free | April 2021

I was always aware of the link between what you put into your body, and your overall health. I knew I shouldn’t eat too much fat or sugar, I knew I should eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables and encorporate a balanced, variety of foods into my diet. I knew I should drink lots of water and limit my caffeine and alcohol, and I knew that If I ate rubbish then I’d feel rubbish. I’ve never been able to get away with a poor diet. Whether it be to maintain a healthy weight, or for energy, my body wouldn’t be long in reminding me that I wasn’t fuelling it properly. Despite feeling hard done to as a child, while my friends would live off beige foods and chocolate where as I could only have those foods in moderation, it meant when I became an adult and had control over my diet, it was a much easier transition. It also gave me an interest in nutrition and the relationship between how you fuel your body and how it affects you.

I was diagnosed with a connective tissue disease in 2019 and while it was a sight of relief, knowing there was something wrong with me for so long but not knowing what, it was a new thing in my life to manage which I felt powerless too because it’s incurable, and unpredictable. As I managed the first two years of my diagnosis, my body got used to the medication and it took me to a point where it was under control and we were as far as we could go in terms of medication. I was still frustrated because I was in a lot of pain at times, fatigued, and felt like I was losing control. I’d thought about a homeopathic route but in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt it was too much money to part with for a Skype call. The other thing I wanted to explore was the effect my diet could have on managing my condition. I’d read stories about how diet modification could improve conditions. Ella, from Deliciously Ella turned to a plant based diet to help with her conditions, and Nic Chapman from Pixiwoo has credited her diet in keeping her MS under control. I had read article after article about various diet options but as I have a sensitivity to dairy, I can eat it but if I eat too much I don’t feel great, I was interested to see if cutting it out completely would improve my health.

I made the decision fairly quickly so going cold turkey, seemed like a set up to fail. I decided for the month of March and up until Easter weekend, I would cut it out as much as possible but have the odd cheat day here and there for Mother’s Day, Easter, occasions. I also didn’t want to hassle anyone else with my dairy free diet while I was still tinkering with it. That would give me a solid fortnight off dairy to learn, settle into a new routine and see if I noticed a benefit.

I studied the free from sections of the supermarket and other than them being (at times) eye-wateringly more expensive, there wasn’t anything I found that I could haven’t have a dairy free alternative, which was assuring. From cheese, milk, yoghurt, chocolate, even condensed milk, there were options. Having a sweet tooth, I was nervous about giving up chocolate and even though I’ve found dairy free alternatives that I like, there is also some ‘accidentally’ dairy free products I’ve found which means I can still eat some of my favourite treats, like Bournville and Bourbon biscuits.

I cook a lot so found it pretty easy come mealtimes, but I did do a stock take and was surprised at some of the ready made foods that contain dairy like tinned soups and even some chicken sausages. I swapped cows milk for oat milk, switched cheese for free-from cheese which is coconut based and surprisingly delicious, I started blending cashews to make creamy sauces and swapped ice cream for soya based products. Dairy provides lots of vital nutrients so to supplement this, I made sure I was eating a vast range of veggies, I added more nuts, seeds and pulses to meals and nutritional yeast. I also take Vitamin D supplements so switched to Vitamin D + Calcium and now take a multi B vitamin daily and that seems to be working well so far.

Within the first week, I definitely felt better within myself which was a real positive and I didn’t find the dietary change difficult. My joint pain is definitely calmed down which is a huge benefit (although I’m pretty sure the dairy free has a lot to do with it, these conditions are unpredictable so I can’t say for sure that’s what it is). I’m not crippled with fatigue right now, but I haven’t been since Christmas so I haven’t noticed any direct impact, I suppose I’m moving more so should feel more tired, but I still feel pretty good.

After an indulgent Easter, I now have no interest in dairy products so feel like I’m in a good position to give it a real go and see if it makes a difference to my life. I am slightly worried about eating out, many foods contain hidden dairy so don’t want to eat it unknowingly, but I don’t have an allergy so I’m not as worried about cross contamination as someone with an allergy should be. Time will tell how I get on, but if it’s going to improve my quality of life, then I’m willing to try anything.

I plan to post a lot more dairy free content including things I’ve learned, accidentally dairy free treats and recipes so if you’re interested in that, or have any tips then please leave a comment below.

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16 thoughts on “Why I Went Dairy-Free | April 2021

  1. This is so fascinating! I’ve always wanted to make dairy free swaps, but (as you say) they are so much more expensive, which feels a bit like a punishment to people who just can’t eat dairy! I’m so pleased to hear it’s making a difference for you! And would love to read some substitute recipes!

    Katie | katieemmabeauty.com

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    1. I’m actually dairy free because I have an allergy and really I barely notice it anymore there are so many great alternatives to almost every dairy product out there! It’s a shame they’re more expensive but hopefully that changes in the future x

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  2. This is interesting to read about your experience with diary. I have suffer from eczema and headaches, I did my research and found gluten could been making me ill. I have given up on eating gluten and have cut down my dairy content, it have swapped cow milk for almond milk. There are so many amazing diary free alternative. Some of my favourite include cashew cream and coconut milk.

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  3. This was such an interesting read! I completely feel you when you say that everything you looked at the contained dairy, I have the same issue with wheat and was completely taken aback by the number of products that contained it as well as the price of the items! Though I am glad that now they cater for most alternatives kind of everywhere. Thank you for sharing and can’t wait for some recipes x

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  4. It’s so great that you’ve made this change for your health and are already feeling benefits from it! I think a lot of people would probably find more dairy-free content, tips and ideas helpful 🙂 I’m not dairy-free BUT alpro yoghurts are superior to any dairy yoghurt I’ve ever had! I also use soy milk in my tea and I just prefer it!

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  5. I think that going dairy-free sounds like a great choice for you. I must admit, when I eat too much dairy I feel very heavy- and I try to stick to cheese and a bit of milk for calcium. Thank you for sharing these thoughts x

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  6. I think this is good for your health. Even your joint pain has gone down so that’s amazing. You notice the changes that it has made for you and I could only see good things there. I can’t wait for more of your dairy-free posts, I am not dairy-free but I would love to know more about alternatives and see your process.

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  7. I think it’s so important for everyone to do what they feel is best for their body and if going dairy-free is what suits you, that’s wonderful! When I was younger, I had an allergy to dairy, so I went without it for several years. It was tough because at the time there were practically no substitutions aside from soy milk and tofu. Now I’m super allergic to soy (and oats), so dairy substitutions are really impossible for me, but thankfully my allergy to dairy is non-existent. It’s funny how that happens!

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  8. This is so great to read! I’m not dairy-free but I don’t consume white milk, cheese, and yogurt. I prefer to drink chocolate milk (even now). Some people find me weird because I don’t eat cheese, but it’s not that I hate it, my body refuses it and I get nauseous when I eat it. It’s funny how that happens when I don’t have allergic to cheese, yogurt, or vanilla flavor. Thanks for sharing your story, I’d love to know more about your process x

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  9. I’ve been considering going dairy-free for a while now to improve my diet and overall health, but it’s a shame it’s more expensive.

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  10. Really interesting article and very much looking forward to reading more. I have been dairy free for about ten years now as I’m intolerant. It’s a lot easier now than it used to be! I often order the vegan option when I’m out as it’s guaranteed to have no dairy although they often look a little confused when I ask for a topping of chicken on my vegan pizza!!

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