How To Know If You Might Be Sensitive To Dairy

by Isadora Baum, CHC

Foods containing dairy can be great for hitting your daily requirement of calcium and protein, but sometimes it's possible to find yourself with a negative reaction, and often a stomach ache, among other symptoms. Not all people can tolerate it, and knowing the signs of a dairy sensitivity can be beneficial in getting in touch with your body's response and taking immediate action to eliminate distress. Plus, with all of the dairy alternative options today, it's easy to find a healthy and delicious substitute.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on figuring out how their bodies respond to certain foods and when it's appropriate to try a different style of eating and lifestyle behaviors. I often find that clients of mine feel sick upon eating dairy, and it takes some trial and error to figure out if a sensitivity exists. Of course, an intolerance to lactose can be easily diagnosed, but sometimes the body just feels off and different towards certain food groups without a clear understanding as to why. Going with your gut instinct can help you enjoy greater health and comfort in the day, and eliminating diet might yield surprising results when it comes to feeling your tip-top self. Here are 11 signs that you might have a dairy sensitivity and what you should about it.

1. Acne

Over email with Bustle, certified healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines expresses that acne can be a sign of a dairy intolerance or sensitivity, and she herself, had noticed clearer and fresher skin by eliminating dairy from her own diet. If you are prone to flare ups and pimples, it could be due to dairy, so try reducing intake and see if it makes a difference in your skin.

2. Body Aches

"Dairy sensitivity can surface in a wide variety of ways since about 80% of our immune system is in our gut," advises Diane Sanfilippo, certified nutrition consultant and bestselling author of Practical Paleo over email with Bustle. "This means that anything that irritates our digestion may impact nearly any other normal body function and cause things to go haywire," Sanfilippo adds. Sometimes dairy can be a trigger for stomach upset.

Practical Paleo , $30, Amazon

3. Seasonal Allergies

While having seasonal allergies might be outside your control, in some cases, dairy has been found to exacerbate seasonal allergy symptoms in people, explains Sanfilippo. "If you aren't sure whether you have a dairy sensitivity, the best way to find out is by eliminating all dairy for 14 days, then reintroducing it and tracking what you feel," recommends Sanfilippo. It might ease your allergy symptoms when experiencing flare ups.

4. Headaches

"Headaches and migraines" are common with dairy sensitivities, explains Sanfilippo, and such discomfort can hinder your focus and productivity in the day. If you notice you're getting a lot of migraines or headaches and are not generally prone to the occurrence, consider dairy as a culprit and try an elimination diet.

5. Poor Digestion

"You may find that only certain types of dairy cause problems for you - for example, cow versus goat. You may also find that you do well eating yogurt and soft cheeses, but hard cheeses don't work for you. It's a worthwhile test to run on yourself, since dairy from well-raised (pastured, grass-fed) animals is a wonderful source of nutrition, and many people end up eliminating all dairy perhaps unnecessarily when only one type may be problematic for them," explains Sanfilippo. Keep track of which types of dairy might be troubling your tummy.

6. Bad B.O.

Traines says that although surprising, dairy might be attributed to bad B.O., as she found at least in own experiences that eliminating dairy had completely freshened her natural odors. If you notice yourself having a smelly problem, it's worth a shot avoiding dairy (or reducing the amount) to see if it makes a difference.

7. Skin Rash

According to experts at SF Gate, consuming dairy can lead to skin rashes, as a form of irritation. If you notice your skin looking red and blotchy, consider avoiding dairy for the time being to see if the rash subsides and the irritated skin starts to heal. Of course, you can also see a physician or dermatologist for further advice.

8. Abnormal Bowels

According to running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer over email with Bustle, abnormal bowel movements, such as constipation, diarrhea, and excessive gas, can result due to a dairy sensitivity. If you notice such discomfort and irregularity, consider eliminating dairy for a few weeks to see if there's a change.

9. Bloating

If you notice yourself feeling bloated after meals, it could be due to what you're eating, and in this case, dairy could definitely be to blame. In some people, dairy can be problematic for gas and digestion, and this will appear in bloating and water retention. If you start to feel bloated after your morning yogurt, switch to eggs and see if you start to feel better.

10. Hives

If you notice hives on your skin, get rid of dairy asap and see if your skin starts to go back to normal. Such inflammation can be triggered by dairy products. Of course, eliminate cheese, milk, and yogurt, but also consider processed goods, like breads, soups, and frozen meals, that are often contaminated with dairy.

11. Breathing Problems

According to Body Ecology Founder Donna Gates on her website, trouble breathing, such as wheezing, can happen when someone has a sensitivity to dairy, without knowing about it. If you notice strange symptoms regarding breathing and respiratory problems, consider avoiding dairy to see if you feel better.

A dairy sensitivity can manifest itself in these various ways, and if you notice yourself experiencing any of these bodily issues, it's worth eliminating dairy to see if there's any change. If you still feel uncomfortable, it's time to book an appointment with a physician.

Images: Pixabay (12)