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Dairy – Are You Intolerant?

An allergy can be easy to spot with immediate reactions but an intolerance can be harder to realise as the symptoms can be apparent 30 minutes to two days of eating dairy, while some reactions can run concurrently. Some may be able to tolerate a small amount, say in tea for example, but symptoms appear after drinking a whole glass of milk. It is important to look for signs of intolerance because if the body is fighting to digest a substance it is intolerant to, the whole system is weakened and that can lead to illness later on.

Symptoms of intolerance can include:

  • Diarrhoea or loose stools
  • Bloating and gas
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Noises or pain in the lower abdomen
  • Irritable bowel
  • Cough or Asthma
  • Skin problems
  • Headaches or Fatigue
  • Frequent colds or flu, sinus pain
  • Joint Pains
  • Dark circles under the eyes

If you suspect you have an intolerance the first step is to keep a diary of everything you eat, what symptoms you have and when. That way you can work out what foods are affecting your system. You might want to go on to an elimination diet by cutting out suspect foods then reintroducing them slowly one by one and monitoring your symptoms. You can ask your GP about this, also this is a useful website with free e-books, videos and apps to help you. The App is available through iTunes, if you do not have an iTunes account there are plenty of similar apps on google play to help you.

Is Stress a factor?

It is worth considering how stress affects the digestive system so your symptoms could be temporary. In times of stress the fight or flight state of the hormone and nervous systems reduces the digestive process to focus on producing adrenaline in preparation to fight or run (flight). When we eat in this state the digestive process is ill equipped to deal with breaking down food properly and may lead to some symptoms listed above.

Therapeutic help

The Bowen Technique procedures for the upper and lower digestion, intestines and ileocecal valve are invaluable in helping to relieve many digestive symptoms. Issues with the ileocecal valve are often related to intolerances and allergies, which is why improving the digestion and diet will help those with issues in this area. Stress relief is also a wonderful effect of The Bowen Technique.

What’s the alternative?

Some people find switching to Goats or Sheeps milk help their symptoms drastically, this is because the fat molecules in cows milk are so large our bodies find them difficult to digest, causing problems such as IBS symptoms, respiratory conditions, skin problems or frequent colds or flu. In fact goats milk is more nutritious than cows milk! If you don’t like goats cheese don’t be put off trying skimmed or semi-skimmed varieties as they are very mild. Those with an allergy will need to avoid all dairy products.


Avoiding cows milk or dairy is not difficult these days with plenty of choice and more products coming on the market all the time. With the addition of ‘Free From’ sections in most supermarkets there are plenty of alternatives. I used to have to check every label of every product I bought which was very time consuming! This list will help you make informed choices about what to try for yourself.

  • Sheep or Ewes cheese  - Manchego or Ossau Iraty, lovely and mild, can be grated
  • Feta Check ingredients but should be goats or sheep milk
  • Buffalo Mozzerella - Check the packet as most have cow’s milk – usually in “finest” section. Lovely on pizza. Buffalo is very nutritious and does not trigger intolerances
  • Goats cheese - Also available in cheddar form, an acquired taste
  • Goats milk - Must be semi-skimmed form as full milk is strong in flavour, keep cold, can be used as regular milk, ok in tea and coffee
  • Goats Butter - Use to replace cows butter or spreads
  • Goats, sheep or soya yogurt
  • Nut Milks - Bought or made at home, very nutritious
  • Alpro soya - Alternatives for cooking – whipping cream, single cream, deserts
  • Pure - Dairy free spread used instead of butter or margarine. Can be used in recipes and frying. Some of the supermarkets do their own, if choosing an olive oil variety check the ingredients.

These items can all be found in most large supermarkets, there are many other products available from your’ health food store or online.

Soya products are also available but each varies in taste greatly. Unsweetened soya (preferably organic) is ok in tea; So Good is nice for cereal. There are flavoured milks available, vanilla rice milk is lovely on cereal and there are chocolate varieties available for the occasional treat but beware of hidden sugars. If using alternative milks for children such as soya, rice or oat please check the nutrients added to ensure they get adequate calcium etc. I do not recommend a total reliance on soya and favour a variety to ensure a good balance of nutrients.

Please check the labels for hidden dairy; look out for the less obvious ingredients such as lactose, whey, curd, casein, lactalbumin and lactoglobulin.

What about calcium?

It is a common myth that most of our calcium needs to come from dairy. The highest non-dairy source is from dark green leafy vegetables which is more readily absorbed by the body.  This is a list of alternative sources of calcium; vitamin D and exercise also help our absorption.

  • Dark green veg inc broccoli, cabbage, watercress, Bok choy, kale – leaves can be blended in a just cooked soup to disguise for young children. Drunk in a cup or with a straw and call it alien soup or something that will appeal to your’ youngster!
  • Sardines, canned salmon and pilchards
  • Tofu – cauldron foods do a marinated variety which is very easy to include in your’ recipe
  • Nuts and seeds - esp. sesame, sunflower, almonds (lovely soaked for 24hrs), brazil
  • Fish with bones i.e. sardines – you can buy in tomato sauce which is lovely toasted
  • Oatmeal
  • Beans, especially edamame and white beans
  • Dried figs
  • Oranges
  • Tahini (sesame seed butter) – on toast or added to recipes such as soup
  • Fortified cereals and breads




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