Who? Me? Dairy-free?

It’s amazing how catering to one whim can change your perspective so ultimately.

A friend went to get a food sensitivity test done and came up with some surprises. I pondered it. I’d been feeling run down, lethargic, irritable. I caught any and every bug that made the rounds. My stomach was frequently upset.

My tests came back normal: no anemia, no thyroid issues. I have no allergies. Could it be my diet?

So, I trundled off to a naturopath for the first time. We discussed my medical history, my family, my current situation and issues. And then she brought out the IgG sensitivity test. I had to prick my finger and squeeze enough blood to saturate three little swabs. And we sent it off.

I thought sensitivity to gluten would be the end of the world. Sugar would be a huge issue for me. And yeast would be irritating but manageable.

I’d never considered dairy. I mean, I love dairy. I drink the milk out of the bottom of my cereal bowl. Occasionally we’ll sit down for a dinner of crackers and three types of cheeses. Yogurt is one of my favourite snacks. My go-to protein is cottage cheese. I drink a grande or venti latte daily. Sometimes two.

Dairy is the worst.

Most of my tests came back negative. A few of the categories look alarming, like cranberries, baker’s yeast and whole wheat, but those fall under “very low” reaction and are nothing to really worry about.

Then, you get to dairy. Most people gasp at this point. I fall in the “high” or “very high” reactions. For. every. single. one. Even goat’s milk, which apparently most people aren’t sensitive to even if they’re reactive to cow’s milk. Even yogurt. And whey. And casein, which is used as a filler in so very many foods.

My body hates dairy.

What does this mean? It means that whenever I consume dairy, antibodies (used to identify foreign objects that are seen as threats to the body) attach themselves to the dairy antigen and create an antibody-antigen complex. Because dairy was a huge part of my daily life, my body was creating these complexes too quickly for them to be removed, causing them to be deposited into my tissues and creating inflammation throughout my body. It causes different symptoms, or none at all, in each person, so it’s almost impossible to diagnose.

A sensitivity is closer to an allergy than an intolerance. Since the real action happens in the blood and tissues, it’s not just a matter of upset digestive system. And a sensitivity this high was seriously disrupting my body. Hence why the suggestion of “Just take a Lactaid” doesn’t go over well with me nowadays.

What’s happened since I found out? Well, the first day I splurged on dairy, like so many dieters do before starting (or restarting) their eating plan. I had a latte, a grilled cheese sandwich and ice cream. I woke up the next morning feeling hungover, except I hadn’t had a drop to drink the night before.

Since then, I sleep better. My stomach is upset much less often. My headaches are almost all gone. I have more energy, it’s easier for me to wake up in the morning and I have a much better outlook on life.

I’m sure some of it is in my head, but I know most of it is due to my eliminating dairy from my diet. I won’t say I haven’t slipped. I’m averaging about a once-a-week “oops” right now. A lick of the spoon after dishing out ice cream to my family. Sneaking a chicken skewer from the office kitchen and finding out the hard way it was cooked in butter. Going to the food court for lunch and later regretting I didn’t ask what was in the sauce. My digestive system rebels, I get a wicked headache and my whole body feels like shutting down. I usually don’t sleep well that night. It’s incredible how much worse the symptoms are now when I slip up, but the naturopath warned of that too. Before, my body was in a perpetual state of inflammation; but now that I’m trying to eliminate it, even the smallest doses are a shock to my system.

It’s amazing how much better I feel. Now, I quite often think: “And I used to feel that awful ALL THE TIME.”

So, what’s the bottom line? I’m re-learning how to eat. I can tell you what foods are generally “safest” on restaurant menus, how almond and soy milks differ in lattes, what bagels I can eat at Tim Hortons, the fact that even dairy-free chocolates are quite often processed on equipment that also handles milk products, and how much I’m discovering I love coconut milk.

I’m going to start posting recipes on my blog of meals Matt & I decide are still awesome, even though they’re dairy-free. And eventually some tips for those who are just starting off, even though I’m still pretty new to this myself.



  1. I just wanted to pass this on because it seems you are making a pretty significant dietary changed based on this IgG blood test & you should research all sources of information on this test before accepting the conclusions at face value. Nearly every single organization of immunologists or physicians who specialize in allergies have concluded that these tests have no clinical significance. The IgG antibodies aren’t even involved in aergeniv response and moreover antibody titreing with only a couple drops of blood sounds extremely unlikely if not impossible. If you want to eliminate dairy, feel free, but do it with your eyes wide open and question the results of this test. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/igg-food-intolerance-tests-what-does-the-science-say/

  2. Good for your for figuring things out! And, I totally understand your reactions when consuming these foods. I did a detox recently and found out that my lactose and gluten intolerances felt worse when re-introduced. I knew I would react, since I already know I can’t have them, but the worse reaction surprised me. It’s definitely a learning experience, but I enjoy when I don’t get upset stomach or food hangovers anymore. Good luck!

  3. Thanks, Heather. I read the entire article – it’s good food for thought. I’m not blindly accepting the results as gospel – I think everyone needs to keep a guarded opinion about test results of any kind – but the reactions I’ve had to small amounts of dairy since I stopped consuming it, and how I’ve felt since, do prove, in my mind, that I am sensitive to dairy and it’s worth giving a year to improve my health. If nothing else, I’ll become a more creative cook 😉

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