Dairy Intolerance: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

dairy intolerance

Dairy intolerance: the low down

“Cheeeeeese” says Rocky from Chip’n’Dale Rescue Rangers with some crazy mustache action. You probably don’t know many people who are indifferent about cheese, ice cream, milk, or any other dairy products. Come on, who says “meh!” when looking at a cheese platter or pizza? That’s preposterous!

Dairy aisles are super long at stores, and often offer the variety that even beats vegetables and fruits.  We often turn to eating dairy as a source of important vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats. Is dairy healthy though? Skim milk, full-fat products, or heavy cream – what to choose? Lactose, casein, intolerance, allergy or sensitivity?  Do you tolerate dairy well, personally? Let’s talk about dairy intolerance, its variations, how dairy products can benefit your health, and how you can live and thrive with a dairy intolerance.

Dairy intolerance facts

Let’s look at some facts first.

  • Approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy”  (source here).
  • In 2015 alone, Americans drank appr. 28 million pounds of low-fat milk, and 19 mil pounds of whole milk in comparison to 1986 (21 mils and 27 accordingly).

See the trend? There are a few things to talk about when it comes to dairy intolerance: lactose, whey, and casein intolerance to name a few. Let’s take a look.

Dairy intolerance: Lactose

In fact, as humans, we are not actually meant to be drinking milk past infancy as is the case with most mammals. Lactose intolerance happens when your body can’t produce enough lactase (an enzyme in your small intestines) to break down lactose from dairy products (milk sugar). Infants have plenty of lactase while they consume mother’s milk, and then lactase production decreases dramatically. Thus the numbers you see above – we are genetical, evolutionarily, and perfectly humanly normal. Do not panic. Proceed to eat your hunk of Parmesan.

If there is not enough lactase to digest lactose (I am about to make a riddle with these two words), bacteria have to deal with lactose you ingested. Thus all the wonderful symptoms your friends make jokes about  – bloating, gas, diarrhea, etc. Remember Leonard Hoffstadter ? Nobody envies Leonard. Are you still eating your piece of cheese?

Lactose intolerance is not harmful in the long run, you just deal with these unpleasant symptoms. Keep reading on, we will talk about it more!

Dairy intolerance: Whey or casein

Dairy proteins, whey  (a by-product of cheese making) and casein (dairy protein) are in milk. Casein affects people more than whey, and symptoms can range from minor to more severe (digestive and not only): bloating, gas, skin rashes, upset stomach, swelling of your lips, and even bring you to the point of anaphylaxis – a serious allergic reaction that can lead to death. Casein allergy occurswhen your body’s immune system mistakenly thinks the protein is harmful and inappropriately produces allergic (IgE) antibodies for protection”.

Not to worry, though. Most people have some mild symptoms that can be eliminated by small tweaks in their diet. Is there anything good about dairy you need to know?

How can dairy benefit you?

Dairy is not only a delicious group of foods but also a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. Here is what it can provide to your body:

  1. Lots of calcium, vitamin D, B2, B12, Potassium, Phosphorus, Selenium, and many others.
  2. You get a nice helping of protein if you choose good-quality cheese and yogurts (raw, fermented, and aged).
  3. Improved digestive health
  4. Bone and dental health
  5. Improved blood pressure
  6. Balanced weight (if you have a balanced diet)
  7. It’s delicious. No comments here.

The ugly of dairy intolerance:

1.  Sources/quality.

Make sure you know where your dairy products come from! For example, Kraft cheese adds potato starch to their cheeses(I find it kind of ridiculous). Get to know your local farmer. Aim for grass-fed, raw, organic, or fermented products, they are least likely to be full of hormones and cause a ton of misalignment in your gut and inflammation.

2. Carbs.

13 grams of carbs per cup of whole milk. HOLY COW. Is that for real? Does it make you wonder why milk has so many carbs? So yeah, if you are following a low-carb approach, it might be difficult to use milk, let alone skim milk (it has even more carbs). Solution: heavy cream, raw milk, and lastly, half and half. Nobody can be afraid of fatty products (just make sure your carbs are low to avoid quick fat storage in your buns, hehe)

3. Calories.

Yes, it is hard to resist just another slice of cheese, and each of them will add 100-120 calories to your daily intake. Proceed with caution!

What to do if you are intolerant?

Accept it.

Easier said than done. It is not the end of the world if your body is intolerant. There are ways to tailor your nutrition so you can enjoy foods still and do not experience all the negative effects. There are many foods, dishes, and restaurants that will tailor to your needs. I am not trying to be a meany here – but there are plenty, oodles of foods available for your disposal, use them! Some people can never get in the sun. Many can’t tolerate Icy Hot. Some have terrible allergies. A dairy intolerance is something that you can adjust to and live with, and not feel deprived (try that almond milk ice cream by So Delicious – dairy-free brand).

Experiment with different types of milk.

Try goat, sheep, buffalo and camel milk (if you can get it!). Go for some yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk. Try better quality products – local, organic, and raw. Ultimately, the more aged a cheese is, the less likely it will affect you as much. Make sure you don’t have any other underlying issues like leaky gut, celiac, or gluten intolerance – they have similar symptoms.

Ignore it.

If it’s mild enough and does not cause significant discomfort and distress to your tummy – you can opt into having less dairy or have it less frequently. Modifying the quantities will reduce its effects.

Cure it!

You can heal your gut.  Read more here and here

What about you – do you drink milk? Eat any other dairy products? What kind?

In good health,

Author: Anya Perry
Anya Perry battled boring diets, low energy, and declining health for over 10 years before she found what works. Now, she helps women achieve their dream state of health, fitness, and vitality… without the struggles, battles of miserable diets and yo-yo results. She can’t live without coffee and challenges.

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