Avoiding dairy products:

Dairy products means anything made from the milk of any animal – cow, goat, sheep, buffalo. It doesn't include eggs.

So that means no milk, yogurt, cheese, cream, ice cream....and it also means that it is important to check food labels for skimmed milk and whey powder, which are both put into many processed food products such as biscuits, milk chocolate, sweets, ready meals, soups etc.

Most people who are dairy intolerant can have butter. This is because butter is almost 100% dairy fat, and it is mostly either the proteins or the sugars in milk that cause the problem.

So you can eat butter, and food cooked with butter unless you have been specifically told not to.

This may sound difficult to start with but most people find that once they get started, and have spent their first couple of shopping trips with their strongest glasses on looking at labels and taking three times longer than usual to do their shop, that it is really not so difficult after all.

Alternatives to milk are easy – use rice, oat, almond, hazelnut or coconut milks on cereals, in tea, for cooking – just as you would use ordinary milk. They are more expensive but you will probably find you use less. You can also easily buy coconut cream and oatly cream – both of which can be used as pouring creams or in cooking. Experiment with these alternatives to see which you like best – everybody has their own favourites.

You can easily make your own milks – to make oat milk soak a cup of rolled oats in a litre of water for a few hours, whizz in a blender, and strain through a fine sieve. You can add a pinch of salt and a dash of hemp seed or olive oil before blending if you like. Use the same method for nuts or cooked brown rice.

You can also use soya products – ice cream (Swedish glace), cheese, cream cheese, milk, yogurt and so on – but it is very important to only use these occasionally. Soya is very allergenic, if you eat soya products every day, several times a day, you will become intolerant to it within a few months, and that will make life more difficult. So restrict soya products to four or five times a week. Soya will also suppress the thyroid gland.

An excellent ice cream is one made by Booja Booja – just cashews, sugar and water – very delicious. They also make very good dairy free chocolate.

Be wary of lactose free milk products – they may be fine for some people, but definitely not for all.

An alternative to grated cheese as a sprinkle on top of foods is to whizz any nuts or seeds in a mini grinder with some salt - or grind them in a pestle and mortar. It is very effective and is very good for you. Try it on pasta dishes, but don't put it under the grill or in the oven to brown.

You can get calcium and magnesium from many other foods – especially good are nuts and seeds, sesame seeds in particular – and many of the alternative milks are also fortified with extra calcium. We don't need milk nutritionally once we are weaned – it is food for babies, not adults, and contains many natural growth hormones that can, by themselves, cause many health problems.

Everybody has their own level of tolerance to dairy products – some cannot cope with even the smallest amount, while others can tolerate it once a week for example. You have to find your own level by cutting it out 100% for 8 – 12 weeks, see how that feels, and then re-introducing a small amount. You will find that when your body is under stress – mental or physical – your tolerance levels will be much lower than when you are well and without stress, so when you get a cold, or have an exam, or move house for example, you will need to cut out the dairy again. You may also find that you can tolerate goats or sheeps milk products more easily than cows – again, you will need to find your own levels.


Christine Herbert - Herbalist and Allergy Therapist - 01953 603056