Depending on the current state of your gut, you may need to stop eating dairy products, but ideally this is only a temporary measure while our gut heals. In the long run, dairy is not only delish but also offers real health benefits, particularly when fermented.
To digest the proteins in milk we need certain enzymes. Each of us produces different amounts of these enzymes so each has a different tolerance to dairy.
Some people cannot take any quantity of dairy without having a negative reactive such as diarrhea or stomach ache. This is a true allergy. However most of us are able to tolerate a certain amount before having any problems.
If our gut is malfunctioning, for example if we have chronic diarrhea and/or constipation or skin issues it’s possible that the dairy we’re consuming is causing the upset. In that case we’ll see an immediate improvement as soon as we eliminate all dairy products from our diet.
However for most of us the underlying problem is more complex and we’ll need to make other changes to our diet and lifestyle before getting the result we want, namely a smoothly functioning digestive system and strong overall health.
The good news for those of us in this second category is that we may be able to consume dairy again once the gut is brought back into happy balance. It’s just that while our system is struggling, dairy can become impossible for us to digest. This means that we are dairy intolerant, although temporarily.
Does Dairy Cause Bad Skin?
People with gut issues often find that eating dairy triggers or worsens chronic skin conditions like acne, eczema or psoriasis. These conditions can be itchy, painful and embarrassing, and generally make our lives a misery.
There’s no question that if our gut is bad, dairy can make matters worse. However not all dairy is created equal. There’s a big difference between ‘regular’ dairy and fermented (‘cultured’) dairy. More on the difference below.
A 2015 review of the scientific evidence on this found that fermented dairy products may actually provide benefits for skin health. This is the case whether the fermented product is eaten or applied directly to the skin.¹
How to Eliminate Dairy From Your Diet
We start by eliminating all dairy completely from our diet. Check labels for anything mentioning milk or lactose, as it’s added to tons of unexpected things such as bread and pastries, sauces, cereals, salad dressings, candies, and snacks.
We then continue with other gut-healing strategies that we talk about here at GG, such as eating fermented foods and cutting back on starchy carbohydrates.
At a suitable moment when our gut is showing improvement, we gradually start to reintroduce dairy. It may take 6 months or more to reach this point.
Reasons to Reintroduce Dairy
It’s absolutely the case that when our gut’s in a bad way, dairy can trigger symptoms + increase inflammation. For that reason it’s often completely removed from our diet during the ‘remove and repair’ phase of a gut-healing protocol.
However once our gut heals and inflammation is brought under control, we may be able to tolerate dairy once again. If so, there are powerful health reasons for including it in our diet:
– dairy contains lots of healthy fats, especially when from grass-fed animals,- when dairy is soured, like yogurt or kefir, it contains a huge payload of friendly bacteria.
How to Reintroduce Dairy to Your Diet
To reintroduce dairy, we start by adding some ghee to our diet, then if all is well, some butter. These are the best options to begin with as they contain very little of the problematic lactose so are the easiest to digest. They also contain valuable nutrients and vitamins which will give us energy!
We need to add dairy back into our diet very slowly, just one thing at a time and in a tiny amount (just 1 teaspoon to start with). We watch for an adverse reaction, anything from diarrhea to eczema or anxiety.
The next dairy product to introduce is natural, unflavoured yoghurt, preferably homemade. The fermentation process reduces lactose and makes it easier to digest.
After this is kefir, a powerhouse of gut-healing goodness. For more details check out: Two Superfoods To Heal Your Gut That You Can Make Yourself and What’s All The Hype About Fermented Food?
Notice that we’re not talking about reintroducing actual milk, only soured (fermented) milk products like ghee, butter, yoghurt, kefir or cheese. Milk is much higher in lactose and much more likely to irritate the gut and set back our progress.
We do our best to consume ONLY ORGANIC and/or GRASS FED dairy products, as these are free of the antibiotics, pesticides and growth hormones that are commonplace in ordinary milk, and which can make a bad gut worse!
- Vaughn AR, Sivamani RK 2015 Effects of Fermented Dairy Products On Skin