I didn’t know I was sensitive to dairy.
I just knew I loved cheese and enjoyed a tall glass of milk with every meal. I got BabyBels and CheeseStrings in my school lunches and Kraft Dinner that I dressed up with a LOT of extra cheese at home. I grew up with the slogans “Milk Does a Body Good” and “Got Milk?” so of course I assumed I was, well, doing my body good because I got milk! My love for all things dairy was in fact the last hurdle to going vegan, and ultimately my love of animals won.
So I chucked cheddar, had it out with havarti, said goodbye to gouda…
That winter my skin finally cleared up and I didn’t get a weeks-long throat infection for the first time in years. I initially chalked it up to the increase in vegetables I was eating, since even though I was a vegetarian for a long time before that, I was not really that into vegetables.
I wouldn’t learn until years later that for years before that I had been experiencing not just one or two but several signs and symptoms of food sensitivities linked particularly to dairy consumption!
In the Facebook Live replay video below, I talk about how dairy may be affecting your hormones – featuring those symptoms and others, why that’s important to address when you’re trying to look after your health (especially your hormones), and more, including some of my favourite alternatives to try (and why) instead.
Let’s get into it! (Summary notes follow.)
First, those symptoms and signs I mentioned. When I look back, I know now that they were. I mentioned acne and throat infections, but I also experienced more: constant gas and belching, oily skin, itchy ears and excess ear wax, hoarseness, and catching just about every cold that came my way, all while feeling like I just couldn’t get enough cheese – practically an addiction.
On that last point, it’s actually really common to crave the things your body is sensitive to! Basically, in response to the inflammation produced by responding to the presence of a sensitive substance, your body increases dopamine response and pretty much tricks your brain and body into thinking everything is actually great. We love dopamine and the things that trigger it, so our bodies start to crave those things.
Why is this important for hormone health? Inflammation is a source of stress on our bodies! Stress in turn affects our hormone balance. For starters, our bodies start to produce adrenaline and cortisol in response to acute and chronic stress, respectively – and constantly exposing your system to a sensitive food is a chronic stress.
When cortisol is messed up for a long time, sex hormones get messed up too. And that’s a contributor and aggravator to issues like estrogen dominance, PMDD, PCOS, endometriosis, and more.
So it’s very important to address food sensitivities if you want to balance your hormones. Ditching dairy, a top allergen, is on the top of the list.
And other than being a very common allergen, dairy is also generally an inflammatory food. It’s typically high in acid content that our bodies need to neutralize so that we can absorb the basic or alkaline minerals it contains – like calcium. How does the body do this? By using its own stored resources of alkaline minerals. Basically – pun intended – you lose some to gain some, and so you don’t end up with a whole lot in the end.
If you’re worried about calcium, especially if you were like me thinking milk does a body good, thankfully there are so many plant sources that are much less acidic and actually alkaline, so you keep a lot more of the calcium you eat from them. Some of the top sources are sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, quinoa, cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens, dates, and blackstrap molasses.
And of course there are so many plant-based milk and other dairy-free product options available now! A lot of them are also enriched with vitamins and minerals, including calcium. My current favourite is oat milk, which is produced with less water than other kinds, though I’ll often have coconut or cashew on hand.
For more on some of my favourite alternatives to look for, and delicious dairy-free recipes to try, download the free bonus Guide to Dairy-Free that accompanies this session here.