If you love yourself some dairy — milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. — and it makes you feel good, then by all means keep it in your diet. But if you're lactose intolerant, or suspect milk products are messing with your health, then you might be excited to hear about all the surprising things that happen when you stop eating dairy.
Of course the affects will be different for everyone. For example, a person with lactose intolerance will experience more changes to their health than someone who's not sensitive at all. But there's really no denying that a dairy-free life can be pretty darn life-changing.
It's also a completely safe and healthy choice, should it be the route you decide to go. "You can live completely healthfully without dairy in your life — I've done it for over a decade," nutrition coach Amina AlTai tells Bustle. "Dairy products are rich in calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein but you can get the sources from other foods such as nuts and beans." And, of course, you can get your vitamin D from a supplement — which is necessary for most people anyway, AlTai tells me.
If it makes you feel sick, tired, or achy — or if you have some unexplainable health problems — it may be worth giving up dairy to see if you feel better. Read on for some possible benefits you can look forward to, should you decide to give a dairy-free life a try.
1. Your Sinus Problems May Improve Significantly
Are you all sorts of mucous-y and sniffly? If so, it may be worth cutting dairy from your diet. As AlTai says, "... dairy sensitivities can often cause respiratory distress, so I've seen clients who've given up dairy and it's profoundly impacted their asthma or they finally got rid of a chronic cough." Pretty cool, right?
2. You'll Feel Light As Air
If dairy negatively impacts your gut — as it does for much of the population — getting rid of it will make you feel better pretty much instantly. "Most of my clients report that they feel immediately lighter after giving up dairy," AlTai says. It just may be worth a try.
3. Your Head Will Be Clearer
Since dairy can mess with your hormones, it makes sense that giving it up might positively impact that head of yours. As NYC-based naturopathic doctor Dr. Serena Goldstein says, "Mentally you may have less mood swings, and overall clarity and focus." A totally amazing side effect, if you ask me.
4. Your Migraines Might Go Away
Of course you should always talk to your doctor before treating migraines yourself. But there's no denying many people see an improvement when they stop eating dairy. As registered dietician Jan Patenaude, RD, CLT says, "Aged cheese is a common migraine trigger for people with migraines or histamine intolerance." Cutting it from your diet may help.
5. You Might Go Through Withdrawal
If you're used to pouring milk in your coffee, or having cheese everyday at lunch, don't be surprised if you go through a temporary withdrawal period. As Goldstein says, dairy "acts on our opiate receptors that mimic feelings of addiction." It won't last forever, but it can make giving up your fav snacks a little more difficult.
6. You'll Wake Up Looking Less Puffy
Do you wake up with bags under your eyes? By eliminating dairy, you might notice a decrease in this type of swelling in morning. As certified nutritional therapist and health coach Darshi Shah tells me, it has to do with reducing dairy-induced inflammation systemically. This can help your eye bags, as well as your puffy fingers, hands, and toes.
7. Your Bust Size Might Decrease
Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is totally subjective, but it can happen when you eat less dairy. As Shah tells me, it's again thanks to those hormones often found in dairy (as well as beef). Studies show that these types of foods can affect your hormones, so it makes sense that there might be a connection to the size of your breast tissue.
8. You Might Feel Less Irritable
As health expert Rachel Straub, MS, CSCS says, "Dairy can make you more irritable simply by increasing brain activity associated with emotional behavior." If crankiness is your MO, cutting dairy may help clear things up.
9. Your Acne Can Clear Up
There's a pretty well-known connection between dairy consumption and acne flare ups, which may be a motivating reason to give it up. "Dairy can be inflammatory for some, so eliminating dairy may lead to brighter, clearer skin," says Chelsey Amer, a Manhattan-based private practice registered dietitian nutritionist. Possibly worth a try?
10. You Might Notice Less Psoriasis
For some people, dairy "may cause acne or psoriasis or exacerbation of autoimmune disease in susceptible individuals (determined by blood)," Dr. Svetlana Kogan tells Bustle. If these are things you struggle with, it may be helpful to consider how your diet may be impacting your skin.
11. Your Joints Can Feel Better
Do your knees hurt somethin' awful? If so, you may be interested to know that dairy can lead to (you guessed it) inflammation, which can cause joint pain. "Dairy is acid-forming within the body," Shah says. "When we eliminate this from our diets, we may slightly alkalize our bodily fluids ... This slight shift of pH in our overall diets allows us to begin the process of reducing inflammation."
If you're interested in giving the no-cheese life a try, talk with your doctor first. He or she can look into any other sensitivities you might have so you can feel your absolute best.
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