Have you been eating (or maybe I should say “indulging” in) any ice cream desserts this summer? (I’m raising my hand here.) You know there are few foods as controversial as dairy. It’s an entire food group, right? And there are definitely some people who say you need it.
And there are others who say to avoid it. Of course, no one disputes that some people react to it. By “react,” I mean both intolerances and allergies.
What about you?
But whether you love it, hate it, react to it or avoid it, I have an amazing dairy-free recipe for you at the end of this post. Usually, I only include recipes in my newsletter but this is sooooo good, I had to share it here. It’s my decadent ice-creamy dessert that is super-simple to make.
It’s especially great if you have a dairy intolerance because having a food intolerance isn’t fun.
A food intolerance can cause abdominal pain, discomfort and nausea. It also causes embarrassing symptoms like flatulence and diarrhea. Other symptoms linked to food intolerances include muscle or joint pain, headaches, exhaustion and even skin symptoms like rashes and eczema.
Dairy is just one of those foods that many people seem unable to tolerate. The main components of milk that people react to are lactose, casein and whey.
Milk Sugar (lactose) Intolerance
It’s estimated that up to 75 percent of adults are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the carbohydrate “milk sugar” naturally found in most dairy products. Lactose intolerance is so common you can buy lactose-free milk in your regular grocery store.
Lactose-free products are treated with the enzyme “lactase” that breaks the lactose down before you ingest it. It’s this lactase enzyme that is lacking in most people who are lactose intolerant.
The lactase enzyme is naturally released from your intestine as one of your digestive enzymes. It breaks down the lactose sugar in the gut. When someone doesn’t have enough lactase, the lactose doesn’t get broken down the way it should.
Undigested lactose ends up being food for the resident gut microbes. As they ferment the lactose, they create gases that cause bloating, flatulence, pain and sometimes diarrhea.
Lactose is in dairy but is in lower amounts in fermented dairy (cheese and yogurt, for example) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn’t that easy as it is added to other foods such as baked goods, soups and sauces.
And if you’re taking any medications or supplements, check to see if it’s in there, too, as lactose is a common ingredient in them.
If you have symptoms of lactose intolerance, keep an eye on food, medication and supplement labels.
Milk Protein (casein & whey) Allergy
Milk is a known, and common, food allergen. In Canada, for example, it’s considered a “priority allergen” and must be declared on food labels.
So what are the allergens in milk? You’ve heard of “curds and whey?” Well, these are the two main proteins in milk. The solid bits are the curds (made of casein), and the liquid is the dissolved whey.
Unlike lactose intolerance, casein and whey can cause an actual immune response. It’s an allergy. And this immune response can cause inflammation. In fact, we don’t know how many people have these milk allergies, but most estimates indicate it’s far below the number of people who are lactose intolerant.
Like lactose, these allergenic milk proteins can be found in other products, too. They’re not just in dairy but are often in protein powders as well (like “whey” protein powders).
Some of the symptoms of milk protein allergy differ from those of lactose intolerance. For example, nasal congestion and mucus (phlegm) are more common with a milk protein allergy. And casein seems to be linked with belly fat.
Interestingly, people who have gluten intolerance are often allergic to milk proteins like whey and casein as well. These can go hand-in-hand.
Like lactose intolerance, if you’re allergic to casein and whey keep an eye on labels so you can avoid these symptoms.
If you get gassy, bloated or have diarrhea after eating dairy, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose and mucus, then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey.
While dairy may be an entire food group, it is not an essential nutrient. All the nutrients in dairy are available in other foods. If you experience the symptoms mentioned in this post, you can try removing dairy from your diet. You may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues. Or you may find improved nasal congestion or even less belly fat.
If you decide to (or have already) removed dairy from your diet, please share your experience in the comments below. As always, we love to hear from you. And here’s your treat:
Recipe (Dairy-free): Chocolate Ice “Cream”
3 bananas, sliced and frozen
2 tsp. cacao powder, unsweetened
1 tbsp. almond butter
Place frozen bananas in food processor, and blend until smooth (a few minutes). You may have to stop a few times to scrape the sides.
Add cacao powder and almond butter, and blend until mixed well.
Serve & enjoy!
P.S. You can make this in advance and freeze in an airtight container.