Trouble Shooting Dairy
There can be so many issues with dairy! Think digestion and allergies, to actually finding a source for raw milk and cream, to interest in making your own cultures at home (which is really fun!). Here, I try my best to help you navigate your own personal field.
- I'm allergic, I think
- Where to buy raw milk
- Where to buy heirloom cultures
Troubleshooting #1) I’m allergic, I think
Dairy consumption is related to people having anything from minor to serious problems with consuming it, and the amount of intolerance, like gluten, is going up. That being said, there are real reasons you may experience digestive or endo issues with dairy. Some of these issues may be mitigated with serious dietary shifts and gut healing, which I will explain, while others may sadly never go away and that person will simply have to accept dairy consumption isn’t in their cards. But there’s no harm in exploring the possibilities :)
To start, women who have a true casein (milk protein) allergy won’t be able to consume dairy at all, since this is a serious allergy that won’t go away. It’s important to note that casein allergies are rare, however, and you’ll know if this is you because dairy products will cause an allergic reaction akin to a peanut allergy: hives, swollen lips, difficulty breathing, anaphylactic shock. This allergy in no joke!
More common nowadays is a casein sensitivity, meaning you’re reacting to the casein protein because of epigenetic, lifestyle, and/or environmental factors. This can stem from the type of dairy you're eating, but more often points directly to a gut permeability issue which has allowed your body to believe casein is a foreign invader in need of an immune response. In most of these cases, once you fully heal and seal the gut the sensitivity will no longer exist, and is also why there is no dairy allowed on a Gut Healing Diet. However, some peoples will still have to avoid casein rich foods altogether, no matter how their gut heals. Everyone is unique. Cheese, for instance, is a concentrated form of casein, and that person may not be able to tolerate it at all, whereas a highly fermented kefir would have much of the casein broken down and that same person could drink it without issues. Finding out what you can tolerate will be a journey of experimentation.
Then there’s lactose intolerance, perhaps the biggest culprit of all. Lactose is the sugar found in milk, and requires a specific enzyme (lactase) in order to process it in the digestive system. Like I mentioned before, if your ancestors drank a lot of fresh milk you may have also inherited the ability to do so. However, if you can’t process lactose on your own there are still many fermented dairy options for you that won’t result in inflammation or gastric distress unless your lactose sensitivity is severe. The more fermented, the more lactose will be eaten. That’s why my raw milk is somewhat sweet, but my kefir is truly sour after 48 hours — the bacteria ate all the milk sugar. Butter is another nutritious option, since it’s nearly completely lactose free, and chock full of fat soluble vitamins and gut healing butyrate (grass-fed of course).
Again, the only way to know is through experimentation. If you can’t tolerate milk, start with butter, and move up the line to trying yogurt and kefir. If you can’t tolerate cow’s milk try goat’s, and if you can’t tolerate pasteurized definitely don’t assume you won’t be able to tolerate raw. See, this all goes hand in hand with the “no black and white” foods. I was afraid of dairy for 3 years (like, terrified), but after I started healing and introduced raw dairy into my diet, I had a healing miracle mostly seen through increased energy levels akin to my pre-endo days. The amount of nutrients in raw, grass fed milk is astounding, and I started imagining it as an ancestral red-bull. This may not be your case, but you’ll never know unless you try.
The Big Experiment
To truly discover what you tolerate is by cutting it completely out of your diet for at least 30 days, and then reintroducing items slowly, one by one. You will do this anyway while you’re on a gut-healing diet, like the auto-immune protocol or GAPS diet, or you may have already been doing this for years on an endo diet. If you haven’t cut out dairy just yet, then the following protocol should help you see what you can tolerate right now. And remember, just because you can’t tolerate some dairy products, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to tolerate others:
Eliminate all dairy for 30 days. Ghee is acceptable as it’s both lactose- and casein-free.
After 30 days introduce dairy products in the following order, which go from lowest lactose/casein to highest. Introduce each ingredient for a full day, and then wait 2-3 days before introducing another one. If you react, note the reaction and stop the reintroduction of that certain product. Move to the next. If you don’t want to reintroduce anything on this list simply skip it and move to the next one.
- Goat or Sheep Cheese
- Cow Cheese
- Heavy whipping cream
- Raw milk
- Sour Cream
- Ice Cream
Troubleshooting #2) Where do I find raw dairy products
Raw milk is legal to purchase in retail stores in 11 states. Those include California, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington. That means you can legally walk into a grocery store and pick it up off the shelf (should that grocer carry it, of course). For the rest of us there’s more of a challenge.
Lucky for us, realmilk.com has put together this site which will lead you through your accessibility, state by state. But don't be discouraged if you state is red, like mine. For example, in Hawaii it’s completely illegal to sell raw milk, but the loophole is you can consume it if you own a cow. That means people here are part of “cow shares”, where we pay a monthly fee to “own” a cow, and then pick up our allotted milk once or twice a week.
And if you definitely can’t find raw milk at all? You can decide to a) move, or b) make due with what you have. For example, you can still get all the great benefits of grass-fed butter from store bought varieties (I buy Kerrygold from Costco, which is really affordable). I’m also seeing grass-fed cheese becoming more available, which is incredibly nutrition rich. You can also make your own kefir or yogurt at home from pasteurized organic milk. It won’t be exactly the same, but there’s still nutrition superpowers in the fermentation process that make it very a worthwhile hobby.
Troubleshooting #3) Where do I buy heirloom cultures
If you want to make your own ferments I officially applaud you! Fermenting is one of the most spiritual ways you can connect with food, and it rewards your persistent care with delicious flavors and gut-healing probiotics.
f you choose to ferment, I recommend using heirloom cultures, as laboratory made cultures aren’t as good. Hands down. It’s because labs can only make so many probiotic varieties, whereas heirloom cultures go above and beyond what science is capable of. The best places I found are listed in The Art of Fermentation and are as follows:
- Cultures for Health (www.culturesforhealth.com)
- New England Cheesemaking Supply (www.cheesemaking.com)
- GEM Cultures www.gemcultures.com
- Yemoos Nourishing Cultures www.yemoos.com
- The Kefir Shop (UK) www.thekefirshop.uk
- Cultures Alive (AUS) www.culturesalive.com.au
Better yet, join a slow food club (slowfood.com) in your area and see if anyone has active ferments they want to share!