February Challenge: Dairy Free for 28 Days
In general, I don’t go too overboard with specific challenges or month-long endeavors around here. My goal for this site is to provide a blend of healthy eating recipes, lifestyle ideas, and sometimes, product reviews for items I find really helpful around the house.
I am a pretty even-keeled person and try not to do anything to the extreme. But, I am always researching, learning and adapting my life and my diet to try and be the best me I can be.
In five years (five years!), I have never issued a challenge on this blog, but I think the time has come. And, this one is truly a challenge. For all but the most loyal vegans, dairy is a daily staple (and it is hard to give up because of the way casein interacts with your brain – it is literally addictive).
If you sit down and think of all the places dairy finds its way into your diet, you might be surprised:
- Creamer in your coffee
- Milk in your cereal
- Butter on your toast
- Cheese on everything
- Ice cream and yogurt for dessert
- Whey protein powder
- Even “dipped” granola bars can include dairy by-products
You get the picture. Dairy is a big part of a lot of people’s lives, but, does it need to be?
Y’all know I am not the type to stand on a soap box and preach about things, but, I do want to share my experiences with ditching the dairy, and, challenge you to try it as well, for just one (short) month. February is a great month for something like this, because it is the shortest month of the year! It is also a month when you may have fallen off your new year’s resolutions and are looking for something new to re-engage with them.
There are a lot of health benefits that come with avoiding dairy, which I get into slightly below, but if you want to become really educated on what has to happen to provide you with your dairy fix, I suggest a little self-research on the topic. The dairy industry wants you to think “happy cows in California” are making your milk, but truly, that’s not really what’s going on. Honestly, it is so much easier to not know the truth behind the milk mustache. But, if you want to, here is a short article that exposes just a few of the issues.
My personal experience
Some time ago, I did food sensitivity testing to see what was causing swelling in the lymph nodes in my neck. The results came back overwhelmingly that I needed to steer clear of all dairy (and caffeine, gluten, and a few other items).
So, I gave it up, along with all of the other items on my list, and the swelling in my neck went down. Magic! Also, my skin cleared up (even in my late 30s, I still battle the acne demon from time to time), and these little bumps I get on my thighs went away. (TMI, sorry.)
Over time, I added most everything from my verboten list back in, including the occasional dairy, which turned into fairly frequent cheese on my sandwich, pizza, and every now and then, some ice cream.
My lymph nodes didn’t swell back up, but as you might imagine, I started getting breakouts again, and those mystery bumps on my thighs came back.
You’d think I’d make the connection. But, the side effects I was experiencing came on slowly, and I didn’t really think about it.
And, then I did. I stopped dairy again cold turkey.
Within a week, my skin cleared back up and those pesky bumps on my thighs went away again. It was so clearly cause-and-effect that I was amazed. I also started sleeping really deeply and waking up invigorated and ready to start my day.
That’s when I realized that a one-month no dairy challenge could probably help a lot of people. A concentrated effort to avoid dairy for one month will let you know if it is behind any of your little annoyances.
If not, great! But if so, wouldn’t you like to know?
How to adjust to a dairy-free life
I’m going to keep it real. Going dairy-free can be a challenge at first – see the list above with everything it’s in!
- You like yogurt? Buy coconut milk yogurt
- Pizza fan? Get non-dairy shredded cheese (they even have this at Trader Joe’s), but be careful of soy cheese, as it almost always has casein in it
- Ice cream fanatic? Buy coconut, almond, hemp, or rice ice cream
You get the picture. Whatever it is you love there are non-dairy equivalents out there if you look for them. I have been thinking about trying to make non-dairy cheese at home, and will of course keep you all posted on how that comes out.
With that, I hope I have at least given you something to think about. Even if you are not even close to considering this idea now, think about it. Ruminate on it. Do you research.
And then, let me know in the comments if you are in!