One of the things that I get asked the most on my journey is “where do I start?” In fact, as I sat down to work on a new blog post for you today, an email about this exact thing popped up in my inbox.
The biggest questions around going gluten-free and dairy-free that I get asked are:
- How do I know if I should be cutting out these foods?
- How do I go about getting a blood or food test to find out what I’m allergic to?
- How do I get started going gluten and dairy-free?
Over the next 3 days, I’m going to answer each of these questions – and get you all the answers you need to determine if a gluten-free dairy-free diet is right for you. Follow along as I answer each of these questions.
The funny thing to me is that while I’ve been blogging here for 3, going on 4 years, I’ve never really addressed this big question of ‘where to start?’ Despite the fact that I feel like every post kind of hints at it.. I never actually outright have answered these questions, so I’m hoping to do that for you today.
And if you’ve been around a while and this isn’t entirely relevant for you, just skip this one and I’ll share something super awesome and useful for you next time you hear from me.
Okay, so the first question:
How do you know if you should be cutting out gluten or dairy from your diet?
There really is no straight-forward answer to this. Giving you answers like “your body will tell you” or “you’ll know when it’s time” are just really fluffy and not concrete, so I’ll try to explain how I knew, and hopefully you can get a sense for what the right answer should be for you.
On my journey towards getting healthier, I realized that my digestion wasn’t really going smoothly. I had intermittent bouts of constipation and diarrhea. I also had terrible cystic acne, brain fog, wasn’t sleeping well, and had some pretty big mood swings. I remember pounding the dried prunes, figs, and fiber supplements to get myself to poop sometimes – and other times, it was like there was no off switch. I was bloated beyond belief, living with chronic gassiness, and simply just miserable every time I used the bathroom.
One day at a doctor’s appointment (which honesty is just a really rare thing for me) for back pain I was having, I offhandedly mentioned my digestion. The doctor said I should experiment with a food journal and cutting back on gluten. When I asked about the excessive bloating, he said “eh, give cutting dairy a try too.” And that was the very first seed that was planted in my head that I needed to shift my diet.
Fast forward a few months and I was enrolled in nutrition school, trying new diets, food journaling, and doing elimination diets. I “tried on” a vegan diet for about a week and while I was eating a vegan sausage, I had my very first “aha” moment. While sitting on the pot (sorry), I realized that vegan sausage is made from wheat gluten and I connected the dots.
So I cut out gluten and started feeling better within days. Then as I was testing new diets and seeing improvements every day in how I felt in my skin, I decided to try cutting back on dairy. This was extremely challenging as I was so addicted to it. But my skin started clearing, my mood swings lightened, and my energy levels were through the roof. I wasn’t feeling weighed down in my gut every day. It’s hard to explain, but I knew then and there, my body was happiest off the dairy.
Bottom line here:
Your body is “talking” to you every day – through your digestion, your skin, your feelings of clarity in your mind, your joints, literally every single thing you could think of is a signal from your body.
You know it’s time to experiment with cutting gluten and dairy when you piece together those signals, listen to your intuition, and just go for it.
You can start experimenting my simply starting a food journal. You don’t have to change your diet at all. Just start writing down what foods you eat and how you feel right after, up to 2 hours after, 6 hours after, 12-24 hours after, and even up to 48 hours after. Your symptoms from a food intolerance can show up up to 48 hours after eating the food, so that why it’s often so hard to identify them since so much time has passed and you get to thinking it could be from something else.
If you’re overwhelmed with the idea as to where to start with a food journal, you might consider doing an at-home food sensitivity test kit. With the results of this test, you can have a good starting place for which foods to eliminate and test in and out of your diet first. I recommend the EverlyWell Food Sensitivity Test Kit – you can see the demo video I created on this kit below.
Action step: download the free PDF printable Food Journal by entering your details below for instant access.
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Jozelle Potter says
Rachel: I have been Gluten free successfully for 8 years, now after continual stomach issues, corn and dairy are added to the mix and I feel like I am starting over. I remember how long it took to find all the things wheat was hidden in!! Any hints on dairy or just start all over reading every single label on the planet?? I bake and cook for myself a lot, but I feel like I just got hit by a two by four!! I know I will switch to almond milk, my naturapath tells me butter is probably fine, but not milk or cheese mostly. My concern is the hidden dairy!! Corn was basically off limits due to GMO and a bowl of certified non-GMO grits sent me into almost a two hour allergy reaction!! There goes corn!!
Rachael Roehmholdt says
Hi Jozelle, I’m so sorry to hear that you feel like you’ve got to start over! Luckily, you already know exactly what to do: start reading ingredients lists before you buy anything and purge (or set aside) the things already in your kitchen that aren’t going to work for you anymore.
Check out my book where I go through ALL the details of getting started with going gluten and dairy-free, including hidden ingredients and the main places you’ll find hidden dairy. You can find it in the top Navigation of the site or here:
Best of luck!