The Dairy Free Diet Challenge
Two years ago, we introduced the Dairy Free Diet Challenge. We asked our members to eliminate all dairy products from their diet for 4 weeks, and report back to us. Over 1,000 of our members were able to complete one month of no dairy diet.
As you can see in the infographic below, many people reported significant benefits from the dairy free diet. Our members also reported the challenges they faced. In this article, we’ll share:
- Results: benefits, challenges & related scientific evidence when available.
- Concerns: calcium, protein & bone health on a dairy free diet.
- Alternatives: healthy plant based dairy alternatives, recipes suggestions (infographic).
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Dairy Free Diet Results – Key Takeaways
Here are the key takeaways and important comments you should know. If you see anything we may have missed or have any additional comments, feel free to contact us. We would love to hear from you!
- Benefits: Based on these results and the research data we gathered, we believe many people can benefit from a dairy free diet.
- Research: Some benefits are very well documented by the medical community. Other cases, are still a work in progress. The scientific evidence wasn’t always conclusive.
- Take Action: Should you wait ten more years for more studies? You may want to consider taking the dairy free challenge today.
Start to eliminate dairy from your diet, continue for one month, and see how it made you feel. If you noticed a big difference, share these results with your doctor and discuss a long term diet plan together.
Disclaimer: These results are based on the online survey we did. Your results may not be the same. It is for informational purpose only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, as well as provide or replace medical advice of any kind.
About half of the participants (50%), mentioned better digestion, especially less bloating and gas. This was definitely the biggest improvement our members reported, already during the first week in the majority of the cases. Many of the participants were very surprised, since they didn’t have a history of lactose intolerance or other sensitivity to dairy.
Dairy & Digestion, Medical Evidence
Summary: Lactose intolerance and sensitivity to milk protein is very common and may cause digestive issues.
According to the U.S. national library of medicine 1:
- Approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy.
- Lactose intolerance is an impaired ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products.
- Most common lactose intolerance symptom may include abdominal pain, bloating, gas (flatulence), nausea, and diarrhea. These usually occur 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking dairy products that contain lactose.
- Sensitivity to milk protein may also occur in people that can digest lactose. There is increasing evidence that A1 beta-casein, a protein which is found in most milk in the U.S and Europe is also associated with cows’ milk intolerance 2.
Another study that evaluated the effects of cow’s milk and soy milk in children in the ages of 18 to 144 months that suffered from Chronic Functional Constipation, suggested that there was an association between Chronic Functional Constipation and cow’s milk consumption 2.1.
Better Looking Skin
A third of the participants experienced less skin issues, especially skin allergies, rashes and breakouts. These also included better complexion. Some of our members who noticed improvements in their skin mentioned that before the dairy free diet, they used different skin products do deal with these skin issues. Not anymore!
What about the research data?
Meta-Analysis of individuals aged 7-30 years, suggested that any dairy consumption, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, was associated with an increased risk for Acne Vulgaris 3.
Another study that evaluated 47,355 women who completed questionnaires on high school diet, found a positive association with acne for intake of total milk and skim milk 4.
We were able to find individual reports of patients with skin issues that were resolved after the patients eliminated dairy from their diet 5.
Better Respiratory Health
12% of the participants mentioned that prior to the dairy free diet, they had excessive mucus production in the throat or lungs. During the diet, many of them felt they had less mucus and that they could breath better.
We consider this a very interesting finding. There is very little scientific evidence that shows a clear connection between dairy consumption and respiratory health or abnormal mucus production. Some research data suggests a possible link to the A1 milk sensitivity 7 although much more studies are needed.
Other published studies report specific cases of individual patients who diagnosed with lactose intolerant. Such in the following case:
“A 53 years old woman, with a 10 year history of asthma, eczema and sinus problems, muscle and joint pain, and lack of concentration. She was advised to remove all dairy from her diet for one month. Within one month she described her skin as “wonderful”. Her asthma and sinusitis had gone, and her joints were much improved, her diarrhea and abdominal pain gone. She no longer needed any medication and was taken off the list for a knee replacement” 5.
Another study compared blood samples of 50 patients with chronic polypoid sinusitis to 50 healthy individuals. The study found that in the group with chronic polyposis, 14% of the patients tested positive for milk allergy compared with none of the tested healthy subjects 7.
Less Joint Pain
11% of our members reported less joint pain during the one month of the dairy free diet. Especially overall pain and stiffness.
We are very excited about this finding, especially considering how common joint pain is, as well as the known risks of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
According to the centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
From 2013–2015, an estimated 54.4 million US adults (22.7%) annually, had some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. By 2040, these numbers are estimated to grow to 78 million aged 18 years or older 7.
The research data on the connection between dairy consumption to joint pain is not strong. It is however, widely accepted in the medical community that certain foods can increase inflammation in the body. For this reason, many health professionals and nutrition authorities recommend their patients to eliminate potential food allergens from their diet. Dairy and gluten are common examples.
Craving for Dairy
A third of the participants reported cravings for dairy products. Especially pizza and cheese; pizza by itself and cheese combined with other foods. Based on our experience, and the very large amount of questions we get every day on this topic, these cravings can be easily addressed with the right dairy free alternatives. Plant based vegan cheese or pizza substitutes are highly available. You can get them at most stores or even better, make healthy recipes at home.
When it comes to dairy cravings, the key to the success is to find the alternative that satisfies you personally. Both in terms of taste and the way you feel. It is important to note that we didn’t see reports of cravings for clean dairy foods. The cravings are usually for those foods that are bad for us.
Why are we craving for these bad dairy foods?
When we digest dairy, it breaks into addictive opiate compounds called casomorphins 8. There’s a good reason for this addictive mechanism, as it may motivate calves to keep drinking milk so they can grow. Critical for baby cows, not very beneficial however, for human adults.
Another possible explanation, is that many dairy based recipes have high amounts of carbs, sugars and fats. Think about Pizza, cheesecake or mac and cheese. All loaded with massive amounts of carbs and fats. These foods can create a strong physical and psychological response. When we eat these foods on an ongoing basis, we get used to their strong aggressive flavors. You can’t find these combination in nature or in healthy foods.
Dairy Free Options
The good news is that there are many dairy free options. Both in terms of taste and health. We’ll cover the main sources in the top dairy alternatives for protein & calcium section below. (See the infographic).
When you select a plant based milk or butter, read the label and try to get the 100% pure ones. Some vegan milks and butters brands add additional sugars and flavors, which in our experience are unnecessary. Plant based milks and butters are rich enough on their natural state.
Dairy Free Diets Concerns
Almost a third of the participants (29%) were concerned about not getting enough calcium and protein on the dairy free diet. Another top concern was regarding bone health. These are all valid points. Milk and dairy intake provides a significant source of calcium and protein in the standard american diet. Dairy products are also promoted by the dairy industry as good for the bones.
According to research data however, there’s another side of the story. Dairy is not the only source of calcium or protein. It is not required for bone health. As many studies have suggested, it is completely possible to get enough protein, calcium and support healthy bones from a 100% plant based diet. Plant based diet is also linked to many additional health benefits 9.
Furthermore, a growing number of evidence challenges the effectiveness and safety of long term dairy consumption. Especially when it comes to healthy bones:
Is Milk Good For Your Bones?
Cohort studies done in sweden, found that high milk intake was associated with higher mortality in men and women. High milk consumption was also correlated with higher fracture incidence in women 10. Another study that followed 72,000 women found no evidence that drinking milk can prevent osteoporotic hip fractures in postmenopausal women. An adequate vitamin D intake however, was associated with a lower risk 11 .
These are all published studies you can find in the official US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Yet, you can still see many ads for dairy products that are all based on the premise that milk can promote healthy bones.
Top Plant Based Sources Of Protein & Calcium
If you wonder how to get enough calcium and protein on a no dairy diet, below you will find the top non dairy sources of calcium and protein. In this list, we focus on 100% plant based vegan foods that are considered very healthy, are highly available and do not require more than 5 minutes preparation in most recipes.
See the % estimated recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of calcium next to each food or recipe.
It is based on the average daily calcium requirements of 1,000 mg.
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