On the whole, many dairy products are not very suitable foods. Humans have only been eating them for a comparatively short period of time, so not everybody is suited to them metabolically. And modern processing destroys most of their goodness. Even if you feel well eating dairy, I only recommend:
- Butter (how to make raw butter) or ghee (how to make your own ghee)
- Fermented products such as acidophilus yoghurt, caspian sea yoghurt, kefir or cheese
- Raw milk or cream
- Homemade ice cream from good quality cream
But if you have a dairy intolerance of some kind, you will have to limit even further. The types of diary you need to eliminate from your diet will depend on what type of sensitivity you have.
Types of intolerance:
An allergy or sensitivity to some component of dairy:
- Casein – The most common sensitivity. Casein is in all forms of dairy, and is unaffected by fermenting. Some people are affected specifically by the A1 casein, and can tolerate A2. But otherwise, your dairy choices are restricted to possibly butter or ghee.
- Whey – you may be able to tolerate cheese as well.
- Phenolics (chemical compounds). As far as I’ve been able to find out, phenolics are not a problem if the milk is raw.
An inability to digest some part of the dairy, eg:
This is not actually an allergy. Instead it is an inability to produce the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest lactose. You can supplement with a capsule of lactase enzyme each time you eat dairy products. Or you may find there are certain dairy foods you can tolerate:
- Raw milk, which contains lactase
- Goat or sheep milk, which have less lactose
- Lactose free milk, although this has been processed so has other drawbacks
- Fermented milk, which has less lactose – so cheese and yoghurt or kefir are usually fine
- Butter or ghee
Inability to digest complex carbohydrates.
Breaking the Vicious Cycle, a book by Elaine Gottschall, explains why some people are unable to digest complex carbohydrates, and outlines a diet (the Specific Carbohydrate Diet) that excludes the offending carbs. People with a wide range of complaints including colitis, Crohn’s disease and autism have had success with this diet. If you’re gluten and dairy intolerant, and still having problems once those foods are excluded, it may be worth trying the SCD or the GAPS diet for a while.
Inability to digest dairy fats.
There are several possible reasons for being unable to digest fats:
- If you’ve had your gall bladder removed, your body has nowhere to store bile between the time it’s produced in the liver, and the time you need it. You may need to permanently take a bile supplement with meals.
- An inability to digest fats can, ironically, arise from a lack of fat in your diet. Your body loses the need, and the ability, to digest them. A digestive enzyme supplement can be useful temporarily, when increasing the fat in your diet, to help make the adjustment.
- Your system may just have a need for less fat than some other people. See the comments on metabolic typing below.
Just being generally unsuited to milk metabolically
We all have different metabolic needs. The various types of metabolic typing have different recommendations on dairy. For example:
- Wolcott recommends full fat dairy for Protein types, and low fat for Carbo types
- McFerran doesn’t recommend dairy for anyone
- D’adamo only recommends dairy for B blood types, and suggests other types strictly limit it
If you just don’t feel as good as you could, on dairy, and can’t track down any specific intolerance, keep it to a minimum. But still use butter or ghee, as they are easily digested fats for most people, and an important source of Vitamins A and D.
How can I tell what kind of intolerance I have?
There is no hard and fast rule, you may have to do some experimenting, but here are some indications.
If your problem is digestive – it is probably:
- lactose intolerance, or
- an inability to digest complex carbs, or
- an inability to digest dairy fat, or fat in general
If your problem is respiratory – it is most likely to be:
- a dairy sensitivity, most commonly to casein
- a reaction to the histamines produced when milk is pasteurised
If you can drink low fat milk with no problems, but full fat milk makes you clog up, it is likely to be:
- a problem digesting or assimilating dairy fat, or
- a sensitivity specifically to the fat component of dairy
If you feel great when you include good quality raw dairy in your diet, but seem to put on weight, it could be:
- a dairy sensitivity, most commonly to casein
- or just that dairy is too high in calories for your needs
If you don’t have any particular symptoms, but just don’t feel that great on it, it is probably:
- causing an adverse shift in your metabolic balance ie. you’re just not well adapted to it metabolically, and other foods suit you better
You may find you can tolerate A2 milk. Or you may be able to drink raw milk, if you can find a good source. If you can’t have cow’s milk at all, you may tolerate goat or sheep milk.
Otherwise, I consider the best substitute to be coconut milk. It tastes good, the fat is another good saturated fat, with easy to assimilate medium chain fatty acids, and it can replace milk quite easily in many (though not all) recipes – it makes delicious custard for example. The most nutritious is that made at home from fresh coconuts. But this is time consuming, so many people use bought coconut cream or milk. Many brands have gums added to stop the cream from separating, but often people with other food sensitivities also react to gums. So look for a brand that has no additives and hasn’t been homogenised. If you’re in the US, you might be able to find it in glass bottles, which is generally better than tinned.
Nut milks can work for some people. Homemade is best, as shop bought ones usually have added sugar. Here’s how to make your own.
Some people like rice milk, but for most people it is way too high in sugars, carbs and additives
The most well known substitute, which many people believe to be the healthiest, is soy milk. But I would advise you to avoid it as soy foods are not the health benefit they have been advertised as being, and are actually harmful unless fermented, or in large quantities.
Cream / Sour cream
Undiluted coconut cream is really the only substitute I can recommend for cream needed to complement a sweet dish.
- For a pouring cream, use as is.
- For a whipping cream, open your tin of coconut cream, put into the fridge in a glass container. When it is thoroughly chilled and separated, scrape the thick cream off the top and beat in a food processor. It won’t come out quite as thick as whipped cream, but should hold together. (But as with any new recipe, practice this on the family, before trying it for guests!)
For a savoury dip, think Middle Eastern dips like hummus or Baba ganoush. Or try well mashed or beaten avocado as a base.
Beat together some tahini or nut butter with an equal quantity of warm water that has had a pinch of sea salt dissolved in it. Beat till fluffy, and refrigerate for about 4 hours till thick. Use as is as a sour cream substitute on baked potatoes for example, or add extra flavourings such as lemon juice or garlic and make a dip or pouring sauce.
Butter is the most necessary of the dairy products, as it is in the fat that all the most beneficial nutrients are found. Some people who have trouble with other dairy products can eat butter with no ill effects. So try that first. How to make your own, from good quality raw cream.
If that’s no go, next is to try ghee, also called clarified butter. Homemade is best as you can control the quality yourself, and it’s fairly easy to make. In some places, you can also buy butter oil, which is essentially the same. All of the critical nutrients are concentrated in the butter oil or ghee.
If even ghee causes a reaction, you still have some options, depending on what need you want to fulfil.
- To spread on bread, so your toast or sandwich isn’t dry and unappetising, try extra virgin olive oil, nut butters, avocado, hummus or pesto
- For baking, try coconut oil or palm oil for sweet and palm oil or olive oil for savoury.
- On the Yahoo GFCFNN (gluten free, casein free, native nutrition) board, many people experienced some new health problems, often hormonal, when they cut out dairy. Although there isn’t a complete substitute for the health benefits of butter, bacon fat or lard seemed to be best for alleviating those deficiencies.
Commercial dairy-free ice creams are usually not good, as they are often based on soy
But it’s quite easy to make your own frozen desserts based on coconut cream or fruit:
You may be able to tolerate goat, sheep or buffalo cheese.
But otherwise, this is probably the trickiest and nothing really works. Some possible alternative snacks:
- Cashew Cheese
- Baked tempeh
- Corn polenta, maybe with chopped up sausage and herbs
- Lardo – which is made by burying lard or other animal fat in salt
Whatever you do, though, avoid soy cheese, for all the usual reasons soy is undesirable.