My Dairy Free Experiment and (Surprising!) Results-Cows Gone Wild

A while back I had mentioned I was going to try going dairy free.

I’ve never had any outward symptoms of dairy intolerance, never had any problems with dairy.

Or so I thought.

When I was researching and reading for my “Celiacs and the Paleo Diet” post, I began reading more about dairy and the manifestations that dairy intolerance can take.

So, just for grins, I decided to do a dairy free challenge.

I also cut out all grains and legumes.

Now, it’s not like I was a huge consumer of either of these.  In a day, I may have gluten free oatmeal, a serving of brown rice, and a serving or two of cottage cheese or greek yogurt.  Now, don’t get the idea I went “low carb.”  I simply replaced my grain carbohydrate with not grain carbohydrate (sweet potato, butternut squash, fruit) in addition to my usual copious amounts of  veggies and some fruit.  My carbohydrate consumption can be classified as moderate, and I keep it after my training sessions.

I did this for a about 3 weeks, and didn’t notice a huge difference in how I “look, feel and perform” to quote Robb Wolf and his triad of assessing how food affects you, which I quite like and will steal with attribution.  (By the way, I am currently reading his new book and am digging it quite a bit.  Full review to come.)

And I need to qualify this.  I am referring to “regular” dairy.  As in stuff you can buy in the supermarket.  You’ll see later why I make this qualification.

So, here’s me thinking, “ok, there’s no difference, I’ll add it back in.”

I kept out grains, but added back in a couple of servings of cottage cheese and greek yogurt.


Joint. Pain. OW!

If you’ve been around here before, you may know that I have a history of multiple surgeries on both knees.  Constant achiness is normal for me, so I don’t really notice it.  After taking in the dairy, it was so bad I was back to having to lower myself down to the toilet with the help of my arms.  And I can squat 135# at a bodyweight of 125# for 4 sets of 5, to parallel.  This is not huge weight by any means, but for me of the cranky knees, it’s pretty good.  The toilet should be a non-issue.

Hip pain too.

This was within a day.  Actually, within a few hours when I started noticing it.  Within a day the pain was apparent.

Needless to say, that was the end of that experiment and all the proof I needed.

So much for having “no problems” with dairy, eh?!?!?

Now for my qualifications.
  • I seem to have no joint pain when I use whey protein powder, which is  derived from dairy.
  • I seem to tolerate raw, unpasteurized, grassfed, fresh from the farm, cream in my coffee without any joint pain (for pet consumption, of course, in the state of Florida.)
  • Kerrygold butter (which is grass fed but easily available in stores) also does not give me joint pain.
Theory of why this may be the case:

I am off dairy. With the exception of the aforementioned items.

Doing this experiment was cool though, it was very concrete and gave me the feedback I needed.  Next I can add back in the oatmeal and see what happens.

If you are unsure if a food is affecting you, this is a great, inexpensive (as in no doctors appointments or lab tests) way to do it.  You can even do something like the Whole 30 to clear your system of any potential irritants and then systematically add stuff back in, assessing how you feel.

Give it a shot!  I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so chime up in the comments below!

For more reading about my philosophy on living gluten free:

The Easiest Gluten Free Diet

And if you want more, Gluten Free and Fit 101 has a lot more in store, including ideas for dairy and gluten free protein powders.

If you STILL don’t have enough, get my free nutrition guide.

And that should give you enough reading for a while.

If you STILL want more, or you just want a step by step, simple, checklist  approach to cleaning up your diet, check out 7 Quick Start Tips to Living a Healthy Gluten Free Fit Life.

Dairy free, or dairy-full?  What say you?

Filed Under: celiac diseasenutrition


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  1. Um, so I just got my book yesterday (Robb Wolf’s “The Paleo Solution”), thanks for recommending it to me! I only got 2 hours of sleep last night because I could not put the book down (tip: don’t begin this book at 10pm). I am not finished with it yet, but despite how funny he is, I could not stop crying as I read it.

    While I have been on a journey of overhauling the way my family and I eat for some time now, my primary focus for the past year has been to eliminate pre-packaged gluten-free foods, eliminate synthetic food dyes, reduce our refined sugar intake and most recently, eliminate casein for my youngest, who was just discovered to have an intolerance to it.

    All the while, I have been increasing our consumption of gluten-free whole grains as well as…beans. A LOT of beans! We ate them at most meals (protein and fiber!) and I even added them to my baked goods: garbanzo beans in my chocolate chip cookies, pinto beans in my spice cake, etc. (“healthy” sweets, what not to love about that?). ;-)

    So a regular person like me would naturally assume that my poor health (resulting from 25+ years of undiagnosed celiac) would be greatly improved with those changes, right?

    While it’s true that I have lost 70 pounds and reduced my bad cholesterol and triglyceride numbers from extremely high levels down to the normal range (WITHOUT taking the statin my doctor prescribed), I am STILL having serious health issues (2 years into a STRICT gluten-free diet). I KNEW there had to be more to the equation, but what?

    I am not a doctor, a nutritionist or anything other than a patient (and a mom who wants much better for her children), so how would I know? Then I realized, the true fact of the matter is that I don’t think being a doctor or a nutritionist would have made any difference because apparently, “they” (as a whole) know none of this either, or, if they do…they failed to inform me. I’ve only ever been prescribed a strict GF diet and medications.

    As you know Erin, I already have 3 autoimmune diseases and now I am battling iron overload (I see the hematologist today, so hopefully I will find out if it is true hemochromatosis or not).

    Anyhoo, I am deeply intrigued about the role of lectins in autoimmune disease. While I can’t change the fact that I already have 3 a.i. conditions, I sure as hell don’t want anymore (and I don’t want my boys to develop them).

    Thank you for making me more aware. :-D


  2. Anna Aspnes says:

    I am gluten and dairy free though even though I am able to tolerate goats milk product I tend to crave them which leads me to believe there is an issue there also. I also suspect chicken and eggs to be a problem. But then what do I eat?

  3. Erin says:

    Heidi, I wish you weren’t across the country so I could give you a hug!
    You are not doing anything wrong. You are doing the best you can with the information you have, and there is new and conflicting information coming out every day.
    Remember the “Oh you must take calcium so your bones don’t break and you DIE!” and now its “Oh don’t take calcium you can have a heart attack and DIE!”
    There will always be new information, and there is really nothing completely conclusive.
    Here’s my thing though-it can’t hurt, it might help, so it’s worth a shot. Give it a try and see what happens. And please be gentle with yourself :)
    And I’m glad you are enjoying the book. I am also. There’s no crying in reading! Smile, you are doing incredible things to improve your own health and the health of your family.

  4. Erin says:

    Hi Anna,
    I tried goat milk yogurt this week, can’t say I will be trying it again. ;)
    If chicken and eggs are creating an issue, you can always try rotating them in and out of your diet. Try more beef (grassfed if possible), or if you have access to pastured pork, wild seafood, that sort of thing.
    It sure can get frustrating, and I personally only get grassfed beef sometimes, same with pastured chicken. I do have access to farm fresh eggs from pastured chickens though. The best bet for all of us, to maximize the nutritional value and variability of our food is to try to switch things up and eat different things as much as possible. It’s really easy for me to get in a chicken rut! By rotating our foods, the thought is that we can minimize any reaction to them.
    Where’s the beef, Anna?! ;)

  5. Anna Aspnes says:

    LOL! Yes it’s an acquired taste. Goat milk yoghurt isn’t too bad and I do the Raw Goat Milk Cheddar Cheese. I actually eat a LOT of beef. We buy a 1/4 grass fed cow at a time from a ranch North of us. My body seems to do well with. Funny how we’re all so different. I also agree in a good variety of quality food.

  6. Erin says:

    My Twitter friend @nikkicherry told me that raw goat milk is less, well, “goaty,” so I’m going to give that a shot. I have to look at my co-op form to see if goat cheese in on there. I wish we could get 1/4 cow-I really need a freezer!!
    I agree totally, my body also likes the beef :)

  7. Nice post. I loved it

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