The term 'dairy' is generally used to describe cows milk and products made from it including cheeses, yoghurt's, cream, crème fraiche, buttermilk and all the milks. You will want to avoid cow's milk if you are vegan or have other dietary preferences, or you may have dietary intolerances and allergies which mean you want to steer clear of dairy products too.
Allergies and intolerances, eczema & asthma
Cow's milk is made up of various proteins and sugars. Some of us find the proteins difficult to digest and others are lactose intolerant which means they are intolerant to the sugars (lactose) in the dairy products. Both groups of people would benefit by following a dairy free diet. Others choose a dairy free diet as it has been seen to help ease the symptoms of asthma and eczema especially in children. Avoiding dairy has been shown to reduce mucus production. Following a dairy free diet is worth a try for other symptoms too, for example IBS, other stomach discomfort and high cholesterol.
Dairy free alternatives
There are so many non-dairy foods and milk alternatives to choose from. Grain, nut and bean milks, rice milk, soya cheeses and creams, even dairy free chocolates! One thing is sure, you will not go hungry. Just a note about goat's milk - although goat's milk has a very similar protein and sugar make up as cow's milk, some people who found discomfort with cow's milk are fine with goat's milk.
Worried about getting enough calcium?
If you are eliminating milk from your diet you may want to top up on calcium from other food groups like blackstrap molasses, sesame seeds, nuts (especially almonds) are all great sources of calcium.
Lactose is the predominant sugar in milk. Many people seem to have difficulty digesting lactose. It would normally be digested by an enzyme called lactase in the gut, but if the lactase if absent or inefficient in some way, intolerance occurs with subsequent discomfort.
What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance means that the lactase cannot split the large lactose sugars into the smaller sugars of glucose and galactose . This doesn't sound too painful in words does it? But it can mean abdominal pain, diarrhoea, flatulence bloating and feeling sick. All this caused by the unabsorbed lactose passing from the small intestine to the colon.
How to live with lactose intolerance
The body's ability to produce effective amounts of lactase cannot be changed, but avoiding lactose is easy. It boils down to replacing the milk and dairy products in your diet, with an amazing selection of replacements for milk, cheese and yoghurts available this need not be too daunting.
Lactose free alternatives and calcium
Milk and dairy free alternatives are quite common and a great variety is available. There are soya milks, nut milks and grain milks to choose from of all different brands and flavours. It may be a good idea to opt for a variety with added calcium unless you are ensuring you are getting enough calcium from other sources like spinach, broccoli, black strap molasses or sesame seeds. Cheese can be one thing that those with an intolerance to lactose really miss.
Where may lactose be lurking?
To keep to your lactose free diet you may need to watch out for other milk derivatives too, many milk products are added to processed foods in various guises so keep and eye on the labels and look our for: milk, lactose, whey, curds, milk by-products, non-fat dry milk powder. Some prescription medicines may contain lactose as a filler so it may be an idea to ask, although most people with lactose intolerance can cope with a small amount of lactose.