Ditching cows milk – why we’re dairy free as a family….

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This blog post is written from my personal and my family’s experience. It is not a medical post, nor will I quote any stats or research. There is plenty out there, if you look, and I have done a fair bit of reading and research, myself. I am simply writing to explain why, we as a family feel healthier on a dairy free diet, and why we chose to take this step.

*As usual, I would advise you to seek medical help from a qualified practioner, and always consult your doctor if you think you have a food intolerance or allergy*

When LSH and I got married, I knew he had problems tolerating cows milk/dairy products and a milder intolerance issue with gluten. He had struggled all of his life, into adult hood, when eating dairy products. Because he doesn’t have a typical allergic or intolerant reaction, he had never really seen anyone medically or professionally for his health issues, although he had been though periods of avoiding gluten and diary, whilst travelling in Australia, after I had known him for about 18 months, he made the decision to cut dairy out his diet completely, and since then, has largely maintained this, and will not intentionally consume products with cows milk in them. When we got married I learned how to work around his dietary needs, and cook for a person who doesn’t eat cows milk products or drink cows milk, and largely avoids gluten. When Small Boy began to show similar symptoms, when we began weaning him to solids, we felt that trying to minimise the dairy products we consume as a family (Big Girl and I were still drinking cows milk and yoghurt and cheese) would be the easiest step.

Dairy and gluten intolerance issues are quite common, with many people having issues with either one or both. It has become somewhat of a fad, I will admit, with many books, websites and resources aimed at those wishing to maintain a gluten or dairy free lifestyle.

LSH is not typically gluten or dairy intolerant in that he doesn’t have digestive issues when he consumes either. His reaction to dairy, and to a lesser extent, gluten, is sinus based. If he consumes anything with cows milk in it, within minutes he can feel discomfort in his sinuses and nose, and if he has been exposed to enough, (i.e. if he eats a dairy based cake, or an ice cream, for example) he will, within 12-24 hours feel like he is suffering from a sinus infection, and will feel pretty unwell. It can take up to 4-5 days for these symptoms to subside and ease. This affects his daily life, sleep and general well being. Gluten produces a similar, but not as strong reaction, so he can manage some bread, or wheat products, but he finds the effects accumulative, so prefers to avoid gluten products as well, if he can.

Small Boy reacts the same way, as LSH to dairy products, but also has some minor digestive issues when he consumes them, and we have noticed such a visble improvement when he is on a non dairy based diet, and avoids cows milk products, that we have decided to stick with it.

Big Girl suffers from moderate to severe eczema, which after some trial periods of removing dairy from her diet, seemed to improve and pretty much disappear, so she also is mainly dairy free, although she does eat the occasional ice cream, and has a serving of milk at school every day, but I do find if she eats a lot of dairy products, her skin flares up, and when we treat it, and ease off the dairy, it clears up.

Scientific no, but based on what I see, when my family consumes dairy products and when LSH eats more than a small amount of dairy, and from the reading and research I have done, and consultation with qualified dieticians, and seeing an ENT for both LSH and Small Boy, we have come to the conclusion that they feel happier and healthier without dairy and gluten in their diets, and I mostly eat what they eat, because it is far easier to cook for all of us, then make separate meals for everyone.

We have had allergy tests done, on both LSH and Small Boy and neither is allergic to dairy. What they have is classified as an intolerant or adverse reaction, but not a life threatening or even serious allergy. We don’t have to carry loaded adrenalin  pens or medication around with us.

We have tried the Lacto Free brands, and various other brands which remove the Lactose from milk products, but it would seem that it isn’t the lactose that is the problem, but something in the mill protein that triggers their reactions. Their official diagnosis, after seeing various health professionals, over the years, with LSH and recently with Small Boy,  is a milk protein intolerance, not lactose intolerance, although Small Boy does exhibit some signs of typical lactose intolerance as well as milk protein intolerance. He may grow out of the latter, it seems unlikely that he will grow out of the issues he shares with LSH.

Whilst reading labels, working out what food products work and don’t work, trial and error in cooking and recipes, and having to work a little big harder sometimes to accommodate the dietary needs of my family is a little challenging, overall, I enjoy making sure they are eating foods that won’t make them feel unwell,, and I have become a self taught expert on what is in most foods, and what is and isn’t suitable for them.

So, you ask, what can you use instead?

For us, after some experimentation, we’ve found that goats milk products seem to work, for when we need to substitute cows milk. So we use goat or sheep’s cheeses, (and we have found some FANTASTIC cheeses, which has been a big thing for LSH because he simply avoided cheese, until I introduced him to goats cheese and we began to explore what products he could tolerate) goats milk, (so for a sauce that would require cows milk, I use goats) goats yogurt and also cream. We also use a small amount of soya, although I am not very keen on it being consumed in large quantities, but we use a soya based dairy ice cream, and because I cannot tolerate goats milk in coffee (DISGUTSING!) we use soya milk (we have tried other non dairy based milks, like almond, coconut and hemp, and I just don’t like them, and neither does LSH, in coffee/tea) we also use coconut milk, and almond milk (mainly for sweet based recipes or for drinking) when needed. We buy gluten free bread, from various brands, and use rice cakes and gluten free products for snacks. We use gluten free, whole grain or rice pasta and we do eat rice, and I also use potatoes, and sweet potatoes as starch bases. We tend to avoid oats, as they do contain some gluten, LSH rarely eats oat products although the children and I do eat oatcakes, porridge and things like granola and flapjacks etc.

So, there you have it, the reasons behind why, we are mostly (I am not rigid about the dairy I consume, except at home, when it is easier to avoid it) dairy free and gluten free. My family feels healthier, and is happier, when they aren’t consuming dairy or gluten based products, so we’ve changed the way we eat to help them. Simples! 😉

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2 comments on “Ditching cows milk – why we’re dairy free as a family….
  1. There are so many gluten-free options these days. It isn’t as hard as it used to be to be gluten-free. But where do you find the goat’s milk? I would like to try, but can’t find it, even in health food stores.

  2. motherofmadcatsandbabies says:

    Goats milk is relatively easy to get here, from our supermarket and health food store. I think where we live is pretty “crunchy”, so stuff like goats milk has been easy to get for a while. You could see if you can find a local goats farm, that might supply you? Friends of ours do that, in the US.

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