This blog post was originally published in October of 2015 at MindBodyGreen. Since this content is still great, I wanted to publish it here to help you see just how impactful giving up dairy (or any food you’re intolerant to) can be to your health and overall wellbeing.
Truth be told, I love cheese, butter, and pretty much anything made from dairy — but it doesn’t love me back.
When I first cut dairy from my diet, I was hesitant that it would make any real difference in how I felt. No one in my family had ever had food intolerance issues, so why would I?
I dipped my toe in the water with elimination diets and took dairy out of my diet for a week to start. I brought it back in and immediately all my pesky symptoms that had popped up over time came back in one day. The acne, the constipation, the diarrhea, the sluggishness, and headaches.
I was in denial for close to a year before I got serious about honoring what my body had been telling me through feeling terrible on a day-to-day basis.
When I committed to being dairy-free, I decided that in order to stay on track, I needed to know exactly what symptoms would come and go if I brought the dairy back. That way, I could remember how terrible I would feel if I gave in to my cheese craving.
Here are the five things that happened when I gave up dairy for good:
1. My skin cleared up.
Through my entire adolescence and early twenties, I dealt with acne. Not just a few whiteheads here and there, but severe cystic acne. I tried everything over the years to get rid of it — face washes and creams, elaborate and expensive skin care routines, dermatologist-prescribed antibiotics and antibacterial soap and the birth control pill.
While they all helped somewhat for a short period, my skin was never as clear as it was when I cut dairy out of my diet. Looking back, I can see that in the times I ate the most dairy were the times I had the biggest flare-ups on my face.
2. My digestion improved.
I’ll be the first to talk about the state of my bathroom affairs. I’m absolutely not shy in this arena at all. So I’ll share with you that I was in a chronic state of constipation and diarrhea for years – back and forth. Again, nothing helped despite all the effort I put in. I tried eating more fiber, taking fiber supplements, and drinking more water.
It was only after removing dairy did I see quick results in my bathroom trips. I was going regularly and having healthy poops. Another major thing I saw an improvement in was my chronic bloating. From just the reduced bloat alone, I’m sure I lost a pant size.
3. I had more energy and vibrancy.
I thought for years that wanting to nap after meals was completely normal. I also thought that walking through life in a haze was what all my friends and family did on a regular basis, because I did.
After eliminating dairy, I experienced this sense of clarity that I hadn’t in years. I felt lighter, brighter, and more in tune with my body when I actually felt good in my skin.
4. My mysterious head and body aches vanished.
I dealt with headaches and body aches for a long time. Again, I thought it came with getting older and that others must be experiencing this same feeling all the time like I did. I would pop pain killers like they were nothing , only to have the aches and pain return hours later.
Without the dairy, I feel healthy. No more chronic aches and random pains, just at ease and content the majority of the time.
5. I lost weight.
Finally, after ditching the dairy, I lost weight. It wasn’t something I was aiming for or even really like talking about, because it wasn’t some sort of weight loss plan to cut dairy out of my life.
In the year or two leading up to my dairy revelation, I had added some extra weight without really doing anything different in my diet and lifestyle.
As a result of honoring my body by removing a food that was making me sick on a regular basis, I lost weight effortlessly and returned to my body’s natural weight. My body was no longer so inflamed and fighting the food that it didn’t know how to properly process.
I’ve come to realize over time that even though I don’t get to enjoy cheese or butter like I once did, I’m so much better off without the dairy in my life.
Honoring my body’s needs by listening to its signs and symptoms isn’t easy, but totally worth it to feel good every day and to be healthy from here on out. I don’t know about you, but I choose feeling healthy over cheese any day.