Dairy-Free Benefits: The Top 10 Reasons to Go Dairy Free


I’m not one to preach, but often receive the question “Why dairy free?” For me, it started as an infant milk allergy that evolved into a different type of allergic reaction. But there are many different reasons to explore the benefits of a dairy-free diet, which is why So Delicious is heading into their second year of the 21-Day Dairy-Free Challenge.

The Challenge will allow you to join thousands of people in trialing dairy-free living. And yes, there will be recipes, advice, prizes(!!) … and hopefully some dairy-free benefits that propel you toward your health goals!

Need some additional motivation to make the pledge and join in the healthy fun? Through years of extensive research, and in my interactions with thousands of people, these are the top reasons for their choice to Go Dairy Free.

Top 10 Dairy-Free Benefits

Clear Skin

Eat Dairy Free - Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and SweetsJust ask the millions of people who’ve seen their acne vanish as one of the many dairy-free benefits, and they will tell you that pizza face isn’t a myth. I’ve received hundreds of emails from readers professing that a dairy-free diet banished their acne. Some had been battling the dreaded eruptions for decades, with quick resolution once they cut out every drop of milk and slice of cheese. The exact link is not known, and there may in fact be a few. Some physicians state that it could be a milk allergy or sensitivity causing inflammation; others suggest the hormones in milk are aggravators; while one study points to lactose, butterfat, or perhaps excess iodine in milk as the culprit. Whatever the reason, an increasing number of dermatologists are now recommending the dairy-free diet as a first step in treating acne.

Preventing Milk Allergy and Sensitivity Reactions

Milk allergy is real. Dairy repeatedly ranks high in prevalence on the Top 8 food allergen list in the U.S. and Top 11 in Canada. The severity of milk allergy ranges from life-threatening (anaphylaxis) to relatively mild (hives), and researchers have discovered other pathways in which milk can cause an immune response. FPIES (Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome) and EoE (Eosinophilic Esophagitis) are two types of allergic conditions (commonly linked to dairy) that affect the gastrointestinal tract specifically and can have a delayed reaction, making them difficult to diagnose. Note that milk allergy can appear at any time in life. Though “traditional” dairy allergy has a higher prevalence in infants and young children, EoE is being diagnosed in an increasing number of adults.

Dairy-Free Benefits - The Top 10 Reasons to Go Dairy Free - Lactose Intolerance and Digestive-Related Milk Allergies

Healthy Digestion

I could go on and on in this category. For starters, lactose intolerance spurs a myriad of digestive symptoms in millions of people, including stomach pain, cramps, bloating, flatulence (yes, gas), diarrhea, and nausea. It has been estimated that 70% of the world’s population has some degree of lactose intolerance, which is perfectly normal. After weaning, humans no longer “need” the ability to digest their mother’s milk, so they naturally begin losing lactase, the enzyme that helps to digest lactose in dairy milk. Lactase persistence, or the ability to digest lactose as we age, actually appears to be a relatively new phenomenon in our evolution. Dairy has also been labeled as a key trigger in IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and various other digestive conditions, from the EoE and FPIES mentioned above to chronic constipation.

For Baby

As mentioned, infant milk allergy is a real concern for millions of parents. But the need to be dairy free doesn’t usually end with the little one. Pediatricians often recommend that breastfeeding moms of milk-allergic babies go completely dairy free themselves. It is speculated that milk protein consumed by mom passes to her little one via her own milk supply. Interestingly enough, many moms opt to remain milk-free even after breastfeeding, due to the dairy-free benefits they end up enjoying themselves!

Dairy-Free Benefits - The Top 10 Reasons to Go Dairy Free - For Baby

Helping or Resolving Medical Mysteries

Whether backed by research or thousands of personal success stories, many people are squashing daily headaches, migraines, rashes, stuffy sinuses, chronic infections, arthritis pain, and even narcolepsy when they cut out all dairy foods. Still others are finding a notable reduction in behavioral issues with conditions such as ADHD and Autism when they eliminate dairy, and sometimes gluten (though believe it or not, a large report found that dairy-free has a bigger impact!).

Weight Loss

For those who are milk allergic and have had issues with low body weight, a milk-free diet can actually help them to absorb nutrients and potentially gain healthy weight. But for the rest of the population, weight loss is a real possibility with the dairy-free transition. It isn’t uncommon for me to see posts of “I went dairy-free, with no other changes in my diet or lifestyle, and 15 pounds simply melted away!” Why? A few hypotheses emerge in the studies included on Obesity and Milk, and in the consumption patterns outlined in Obesity in the Cheese Generation.

Dairy-Free Benefits: The Top 10 Reasons to Go Dairy Free - Weight Loss and Healthy Weight Management

Cancer Prevention

Go Dairy Free - The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance and Casein-Free LivingNumerous research studies have shown a direct correlation between dairy intake and several hormone-related cancers. In fact, strong ties have been identified between milk consumption and both ovarian and prostate cancers. One very large study showed that women who consumed just 1 or more servings of skim or low-fat milk daily had a 32% higher risk of developing any ovarian cancer and a 69% higher risk of serous ovarian cancer when compared to women who consumed 3 or less servings per month. Another cohort study showed that men with the highest dietary intake of dairy foods were 2.2 times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men with the lowest intake of dairy foods.

Stronger Bones

Wait. Did I say stronger bones without dairy? Believe it or not, there is a large body of science that directly combats the promoted connection between dairy milk and bone health. According to the landmark Harvard study of approximately 78,000 female nurses, women who consumed greater amounts of calcium from dairy foods had a significantly increased risk of hip fractures, while no increase in fracture risk was observed for the same levels of calcium intake from non-dairy sources. To further these findings, study and population reviews have shown that the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are also the largest consumers of dairy products. Want to know the nutrients that count for bone health and how to get them? See this post: Unlock Bone Health: 6 Dairy-Free Diet Keys + 20 Treasured Recipes.

Dairy-Free Benefits - The Top 10 Reasons to Go Dairy Free - For Healthy Bones

Vegan Living and the Environment

Vegans forgo all animal products, which includes dairy. In doing so, they make a stance against animal cruelty, shun the extensive use of antibiotics and hormones in our food supply, and lessen their environmental impact. Milk production has been shown to have a substantial footprint on air quality (greenhouse gas and nitrogen emissions), water quality (run-off of fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and pathogens), and the soil and surrounding ecosystems (land use, cropping practices, fertilizers, and pesticides). But be sure to choose your dairy-free milk alternatives wisely. You may lessen the dairy-free benefits if you aren’t aware of the GMO issues.

Reducing Exposure to Added Antibiotics and Hormones

Antibiotics are given in mass quantities to dairy cows to help prevent infection, but great concern has been raised over the consumption of these antibiotics through the milk supply and antibiotic resistance. Also, back on the topic of cancers, there are two primary sources of hormones in our milk supply: BGH (Bovine Growth Hormone), a natural occurring hormone in cows that stimulates the production IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1), and a synthetic version, rBGH, used in conventional dairy farming to help stimulate milk production, which further increases the levels of IGF-1. The consumption of cow’s milk has been shown to increase the serum level of IGF-1 in humans by 10%. Consequently, higher levels of IGF-1 in humans have been linked to a significant increase in the risk of prostate, colon, lung, and breast cancers. Fortunately, dairy-free milk alternatives do not contain added antibiotics or hormones since they are plant-based!

Dairy-Free Benefits - The Top 10 Reasons to Go Dairy Free - Animal Welfare, the Environment + Avoiding Added Hormones and Antibiotics

This post on dairy-free benefits was inspired by the So Delicious 21-Day Dairy-Free Challenge! Click on the image below for more information and to take the challenge today…

The information provided above is based upon our research, experiences, and feedback from the community. It is for informational purposes only. Never undergo any change in diet without first consulting a physician. Every person is different.

Reference: Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living by Alisa Fleming

Dairy-Free Benefits: The Top 10 Reasons People Choose to Go Dairy Free

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


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  2. Elizabeth Wright on

    Hallo there – I have given up all dairy and to be honest I really don’t think its such a hardship, though having to read all the labels on everything I buy is. As I am 58 years old my worry is that I am not getting enough calcium and while I know calcium is present in leafy green vegetables there is only so much one can eat of them. I was going to start taking a calcium supplement but a friend of mine said there is a high risk of taking a heart attack which worries me. its so confusing all this conflicting information. Regards Elizabeth

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  5. We started going dairy-free 6 months ago due to my son having an anaphylactic reaction to dairy. We have since changed to a dairy-free household. My husband and I will sometimes eat something containing dairy when we are out without our son. We both feel sick now when dairy is in food/drinks that we consume. I have decided to go completely dairy-free for the time being and feel so much better. I didn’t realize all of the negative side-affects that dairy has on a person. It’s pretty amazing. My husband is a wonderful cook and he has come up with so many dairy-free options: from pastas to mexican to meatballs with gravy – he’s done them all and they taste unbelieveable! I love to bake, and find that the dairy-free options are perfect and delicious! Our son is super happy and loves all of the options for food that he can have thanks to so many people posting about going dairy-free and giving us more ideas for what we can do/make. Thank you so much for your site – I go on this frequently and find ideas. We have never delt with a food allergy before, so this has helped us so much! Thank you! 🙂 Happy dairy-free eating!!!

    • Hi Kari, I’m so happy that I can help and it is so wonderful to read your story! Not only is it great that the diet is helping your whole family, it’s just so wonderful that you are able to support your son fully in that way. Great to have a good cook and a baker on hand, too 🙂

  6. We just went dairy free for the past 2 weeks. Wanted to do it as a last resort to help my daughter’s chronic cough before going to the ENT doctor. And it’s gone now. Virtually overnight. I’m taking in so much more air through my nostrils (which I didn’t even realize were so swollen before), that it takes me by surprise almost every time I breathe! My husband’s cough, which I thought was due to allergies like I thought my daughter’s was, is gone. I had already switched to almond milk but was not as careful about cheese. And my migraines have not been happening either. So glad that we’ve done this!

    • That is amazing Theresa!! Sometimes we live with a problem so long that it just becomes a part of us and we think it’s that way for everyone. It is so pleasing to hear how much it has helped the whole family.

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  15. I do believe I need to go dairy free as well, after having numerous occurrences recently where I have had bad reactions to ice cream and yogurt. Really really bad stomach problems about 8-10 hours post ingestion of the stuff. I am still experimenting so it could still be coffee/sugar/gluten. But everything I read says to start with dairy! I am now using soy coffee creamer and not eating my infamous Chobani greek yogurt (But I love it so much!) It is not worth the hassle anymore.. I have noticed less issues. but still have some left over, I just quit dairy on 7/28..I have been having issues for a couple months out of nowhere. I have been eating the same stuff for months, years even, and now I have issues? My issue is there are certain dark chocolate snacks that I love (m&ms and dark chocolate pretzels! sometimes even just a handful of dark chocolate chips). I know that they make dairy free chocolate but have yet to try it I feel like the lingering issues could clear up if I stop eating so much chocolate since I know it has milk!

  16. I am trying to cut out dairy, but I really need to have yogurt in my smoothies. I tried looking at coconut and almond yogurt, but they all have added sugar! Is there a non-dairy (and non-soy) alternative for greek yogurt? If so, where can I find it?

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  18. Hello, and thank you for all the info! I’m in the process of going dairy free. I’m 49 great health,have had asthma all my life,which is mild and managed well. Very active, horses,exercise. I was diagnosed with EOE about 7 years ago. I was allergic to milk as a baby/ child among other protiens,but “grew out” of all food allergies except crab. I had an appt with an ENT two weeks ago….he encouraged me to try giving up dairy…..that was all I needed. Not to hard for me as I love nut milks. Cheese is next, which I do t think will be hard. But I’m concerned with trying to sort thru all the foods that have dairy in them….could you give me some tips? Btw…this was the first time I have seen EOE mentioned in regards to food allergies, not one Dr prior to the ENT encouraged me to nix dairy! I’m definitely going dairy free!! Thanks again, I will be buying your book

  19. amazing read, thanks so much for the info. I am slowing going dairy free and finding it easy and hard. Milk was the easiest for me, I actually really love almond milk so that was lucky. I don’t mind not having most of the dairy products but I love cheese, I think it is going to be the hardest thing to give up, can u recommend some other cheese options that I can try?

    I am going to this health retreat soon and I am super excited, they show you cooking tips etc so hoping to get some new skills from them, I read this article on their site which states similar things and from it i will never give my children milk either http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/6-things-happened-when-i-gave-dairy

    So glad that there is so much advice out there on these sorts of things, thanks again!

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