Jennifer ~ We made a choice on January 1, 2011 to become dairy-free. It was one of the very best decisions we have made, one that affects me and my family positively every single day of our lives.
I am writing this in hopes of helping other people who have suffered with this. I am not a doctor and would always advise to consult your health care practitioner. However, I can say that throughout my life, I have visited numerous doctors for chronic sinusitis and chronic bronchitis, yet no doctor advised that dairy could be the cause of my extreme and recurring symptoms. The only treatment that has been working for me is a dairy elimination diet.
Before I go any further, I want you to know that before going dairy-free we ate cheese and yogurt every day and my oldest child drank milk twice a day. Ice cream was a frequent “treat”. Dairy was a big part of our lives. If you told me that one day I would be dairy-free I would have looked at you cross-eyed and said “I could NEVER give up dairy.” We enjoyed dairy immensely, but it was making us sick.
We didn’t even realize it was making us sick until I decided to stop dairy in hopes of helping my son with his chronic constipation problem.*
When we used dairy it was always organic, then for about 18 months we bought grass fed, organic raw milk (and some cheese) from two local farmers we trusted. Now, looking back, there was NO difference between pasteurized and raw milk when it came to our health and daily well-being.
And, contrary to what a lot of people say (including one very high profile “traditional foods” dairy lobbying group), my lactose intolerant husband did not digest raw milk (including raw milk yogurt or raw milk cheese) any better than pasteurized milk.
And now on to my story of how dairy was making us sick. Dairy caused excess mucus production leading to frequent infections and constant everyday discomfort.
For as long as I can remember, I have always had to clear my throat many times after eating. It was something that was so common it became normal to me.
Often, I had been sick with colds that would transform into more severe illnesses such as chronic bronchitis and chronic sinusitis…coughing so badly I was brought to my knees on several occasions, with pain in my chest that almost made me cry…mucus so thick in my lungs I almost couldn’t breathe. I can remember, during bouts of these illnesses, blowing my nose much longer than a reasonably normal noseblow.
Many days I drove my daughter to school and was not able to answer her questions because I had to clear my throat, trying to either swallow or cough, in order to breathe.
I can remember reading to my children and having to stop and walk away. Again, I couldn’t breathe. The mucus was so thick in the back of my throat, if I didn’t expel some of it there would have been trouble. Yes, I was choking, and it felt as if someone had poured a cup of jello down my throat and wouldn’t let me breathe to swallow it.
Not once during the DECADES of suffering, did I ever think I had a problem with dairy. It never ever occurred to me.
My husband, a lover of cheese, frequently had bouts of sleep apnea and rousing nightmares waking him to stir breathing. Scary? OH YES.
Milk: it does a body good. Right?
We need it for strong bones. Right?
It’s a natural, whole food and necessary for a healthy body. Right?
Those are the messages that assault us every day, wherever you go. You can’t get away from some message promoting dairy, or a product made with dairy.
I never thought of removing dairy from my diet until I was at my wit’s end with my son’s chronic constipation problem. For about a year he had this problem. It was very uncomfortable for him and stressful for my husband and I. We tried many things and nothing seemed to work long term. I decided one day to stop dairy on a whim – just to see what would happen.
At that time, my son was eating cheese and yogurt regularly, and I was eating dairy throughout the day. Since I was nursing him, I needed to abstain from dairy, too. I tried not to think too hard about this and, to be honest, I didn’t have a plan in place. I just knew I had to try going dairy-free.
My husband and daughter gradually used up the rest of the few dairy products we had, then they went “dairy-free”, too, as a gesture of unity for my son and me.
What happened after just a few days was nothing short of miraculous. I am not kidding.
It did not cure my son’s constipation problem, but it changed our lives in so many ways.
Gone was the throat clearing.
Gone was the post nasal drip.
Gone was the stuffy “morning” nose.
What I did find was that I had a lightness in my head and chest that I never experienced before. I could breathe clearly. There was so much air flow through my nostrils. I had no congestion in my chest. I could run faster and had more energy. I could think more clearly because I wasn’t constantly sidetracked by my physical impairments caused by dairy.
I was able to read my children a book from cover to cover without stopping.
Over the next six months:
We realized that my husband’s seasonal allergies in the spring and fall had abated. They were mild, at most. He had suffered for much of his adult life with stuffy nose, runny eyes, coughing, sneezing, etc. Without dairy, his allergies have been barely noticeable.
My husband’s nighttime breathing has improved dramatically. I can attest to what seems like more restful sleep for him.
We realized that we had fewer colds and runny noses. In previous years, we were sick constantly. From what I have learned about the immune system, there are many reasons we become sick. However, I believe that dairy inflames our mucus membranes allowing there to be a greater potential for viruses to settle into our bodies.
Prior to removing dairy, we had been sick with numerous viruses, but after removing dairy we have been sick with nasal congestion just one time that I can remember. Coincidence? It’s possible, but unlikely.
I feel so strongly about staying dairy-free (how I feel now outweighs any satisfaction I would get from eating dairy), that I have no desire to eat anything from dairy. I don’t want to go back to how I used to feel. And, the best part is all the alternatives to dairy, which I’ll be talking about in the next post where I discuss how we transitioned to dairy-free. We gave a lot up, BUT we added a wide variety of nutrient dense and amazingly delicious alternatives to our diets.
This is our story about how becoming dairy-free changed our lives.*My son’s chronic constipation has resolved by using probiotics, lots of legumes and increased water consumption.
Thanks to Jennifer of kidoing for sharing her testomonial in our Reader Personal Story series on Go Dairy Free. kidoing! is a mom-owned company created to help parents and teachers get children excited about eating nutritious foods to help maintain a healthy body. They develop colorful visual aids to help children learn what nutritious foods look like.
For more reader dairy-free testomonials, see our Personal Stories section.
It really depends on what you are reacting to in the milk, what it is triggering in your body, and what your tolerance level is. Butter is a very low lactose food, so some people who are lactose intolerant can consume it without a problem. Although it is low in milk proteins, it isn’t free of milk proteins. Many people who have issues with milk protein still react to butter. Again, it depends on the individual. Always consult a physician before making any major change in diet.
HI, found this very interesting and enlightening. I have had bad throat clearing for many years and now often post nasal drip etc. Its very annoying and draining. I am thinking it may well be dairy although I don’t eat much of it. Ive long notified I feel a bit sick/queasy after eating ice cream, cream, milk… I do note my symptoms increase especially if i do have milk in something.
I have a question re butter. Its something i really love, i could easterly go without the others. As butter is basically just the fat do you with your experience that it needs to also be avoided as well?
Thank you so much for writing this!! I have had the same experience of long years of bad information from medical staff. I have IBS, Fibromyalgia and have started cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar. The improvements are amazing so far and I will not go back no matter how tasty cheese is. I have also had chronic acne since I was a teenager which has deeply upset me with no progress. I remember I asked the dermatologist if my diet may have played a role. She said no which I remember being a red flag at the time as she was so sure and knew nothing about my diet. I have actually had the instinct that dairy was a problem for years but didn’t listen to my inner knowing because of so much push that diet doesn’t impact all of these areas. I wish I had listened to myself earlier instead of others, so that is my great take away lesson. Thank you for sharing it is great to read as my partner suffers from sleep problems and catarrh and so we are going to start him going dairy free too. You have given me hope and I’m so glad your family is experiencing positive health now! To any reading this, listen to your own intuition 🙂
I have had pretty much the same problem: constant throat clearing, in particular. A few days ago my doctor told me to just cut dairy products for a month to see what will happen. After 3 days I can already feel some relief, but I won’t claim any success until I wait a month. Then I will come back here to report my story.
Totally agree with all you have said, I suffered for most of my life not realising dairy was the problem. I regard going dairy free as the best health move I have ever made after giving up smoking. To quote a person I can’t remember where, milk is great stuff – if you are a baby calf.
Just wondering how long it took to notice a difference? Did it happen quickly (with a day or two of cutting dairy)? Or did it take a week/weeks to realize the difference once you cut dairy?
If dairy is an issue for you, how long it would take to feel better would depend on the types of reactions you are having, what exactly in milk you are reacting to, your symptoms, and your own body. There is no set amount of time. Some people feel better within a day, and for some, it takes months. You should always consult a physician before any change in diet, particularly if you are dealing with any type of medical condition that is prompting the diet. The information provided here should not be construed as medical advice.
Thank you for sharing your experience with dairy. I too have many of the problems you suffered from. I kind of knew in the back of my head it was because of dairy, but I love it so much I just kept consuming it. After reading your experience, I’m now motivated to cut out all dairy products. I know it will be a big sacrifice, but now I believe I will greatly benefit from it. Thanks again for sharing
I’ve had chronic sinuitis (mostly) since December. I was eating ice cream every day and it was mild-ish. About a week or so ago, I started drinking iced lattes (with TONS of milk–3/4 a glass of whole organic milk). I noticed, about 5 days ago, my sinusitis got worse.
So I stopped drinking the milk/iced lattes on Monday. Today is Wednesday. The first day there was a HUGE difference (I was clearer than I had been since November), but yesterday evening, I had a little thick mucus come out (it was mostly clear when I blew my nose) and I have some more congestion in my sinuses. Is this part of the process? How long does it take for the milk enzymes to get out of your system? I want to make sure I don’t have another infection (which is how I got my sinusitis in the first place).
Hi Lisa, I wish I could give you some direction, but this is a medical question. We can’t advise on any medical issues. If you think you might have an infection, you need to consult a physician. There aren’t any firm studies that we’ve found showing how long milk protein or other components might remain in someone’s system. And each person’s body is different in terms of how they might react to a food, an infection, allergies, etc.
Have you tried Ghee are does it do the same thing?
Great info. I’m 73 and a couple of months ago I noticed I developed mild post nasal drip and was clearing my throat a lot, which was worse when I did presentations. With a lot of research, I discovered all the dairy products and the daily whey protein I drank appeared to be the cause and not just growing older. At first I thought the throat clearing was just a symptom of aging. But, with only a few days of not consuming dairy, I am not clearing my throat as much and the post nasal drip has lessened. I have read it can take 4 to 6 weeks of getting off dairy to see more improvement. I consumed a lot of dairy products all my life and never thought those products could be a problem. Thanks to the Internet and a lot of research and articles like yours, I now know better.
Happy to help and hope that you continue to see improved health Bob!
I have been suffering from chronic cough, phlegm.. Tried everything, nothing worked. One week of reduced dairy did the trick. After reading your story, planning to become vegan and totally dairy free. Thanks for your post.
How soon did you notice benefits? I’ve had post nasal drip for over 10 years and always have to blow my nose in the morning. I’ve been on an AIP diet (no diary including no ghee) for four weeks as of today. It has not made any difference at all. Still have that jello feel in my throat. I’ve experimented with dairy free a few times in the past, though never made it past 3 weeks, with the same lack of benefits. It makes me think it’s something else. Or does it just take longer?
Hi Jessa, I’m not a physician and really couldn’t advise on how long you might need to be on a certain diet for benefits. Plus, everyone is different and allergens behave differently in each person’s body. For some, it takes time, for others it’s just a day or two. Have you looked into environmental allergens – including mold and dust mites? Pollens are in the air year round in some areas, too.
Are you on any meds that contains Lactose, that could be the problem why you are not getting better.
I was advised by a doctor to go on a dairy free and gluten free diet.
I would like to have my entire family follow this diet, but is it safe for children? How does one replace calcium effitiently, since making them eat green vegetables is not easy, and apparently soy is also bad!
Many thanks in advance
Hi Marie, millions of people, including kids, follow a dairy-free and in some cases gluten-free diet. However, I can not advise on the best diet for you and your family. You should speak to your physician on this.
In terms of calcium, soy, and your other questions, these answers are all provided. Please see this page to get started http://www.godairyfree.org/dairy-free-information/new-to-the-dairy-free-diet-start-here.
When you say dairy free, are you only eliminating foods from the dairy isle or beyond that, foods that have milk in its ingredients? I believe my son is suffering with seasonal allergies and year round eczema due to dairy consumption but I don’t know what foods to eliminate!!
Hi Emily, also foods that are in the ingredients. Start here – http://www.godairyfree.org/dairy-free-information/new-to-the-dairy-free-diet-start-here and here – http://www.godairyfree.org/dairy-free-grocery-shopping-guide/dairy-ingredient-list-2