Are you thinking of going dairy-free?

It seems to be more and more common to hear that someone has a dairy allergy, lactose intolerance or has simply chosen to cut dairy out of their diet. Why is this?

While milk has traditionally been a mainstay of the British diet (with the UK consuming as much as 40% of the EU’s dairy products), there has been a growing awareness of some of the potential health problems associated with high dairy intake, including allergy and intolerance.

As a result, many people are now choosing to go dairy-free.

The difference between allergy and intolerance.

A dairy allergy is very specific it has 3 major criteria 1 it occurs immediately within 2 mins to 2 hours , it is always reproduce-able, and it engages the immune system an IgE meditated response and can induce an anaphylactic shock. It is the response of the immune system to the proteins found in dairy products – casein and whey are the two main components. Casein is the curd that forms when milk is left to sour, while the watery part that is left after the curd is removed is the whey. This can also produce hypersensitivity which can have the same signs and symptoms as Allergy  the difference being it does not engage the immune system on an IgE response but at on a lower level.

No test is available for this on the NHS.

But don’t get a dairy allergy confused with being lactose intolerant. Being lactose intolerant is when you your digestive system can’t break down the sugar (lactose) in the milk, this is because you don’t have the digestive enzyme lactase which copes with the lactose sugar. One major food group three potential  totally different  outcomes .

This is why you need a clinician with the correct training to support you.

Milk allergy can vary in children as often they grow out of it but also it can morph into a different allergy – the allergenic March. We are also now seeing more Allergy developing in adults. Our bodies actually produce an antibody against milk, which certainly suggests it isn’t an ideal food! These facts alone would seem to indicate that the body has not evolved to cope with high dairy intake and, therefore, it should not form a large part of the diet.

&0% of adults lose the ability to digest lactose (dairy sugar) once they’ve been weaned, so in other words, we were never meant to continue consuming milk and dairy products beyond infancy. After weaning, or the transition from being breast-fed to consuming other types of food, the ability to produce lactase naturally diminishes as it is no longer needed.

The symptoms of being lactose intolerant include bloating, stomach pain, wind and diarrhoea, while an allergy to dairy produce usually results in a blocked nose, excessive mucous production, respiratory complaints (such as asthma) and gastrointestinal problems.

These are inflammatory reactions produced by the body, when it doesn’t like what you are eating. Such reactions are most likely to occur in people who consume large quantities of dairy on a regular basis.

What about calcium?

When people hear the phrase “going dairy-free”, many immediately make the jump to calcium deficiency. The truth is, despite what has been drummed into us for years, milk is not a very good source of minerals.

Manganese, chromium, selenium and magnesium are all found in higher quantities in plant-based sources (fruit and vegetables). Yes, dairy is high in calcium, but the lack of sufficient magnesium is key.

Magnesium works alongside calcium, for proper absorption and utilisation by the body. The ideal calcium to magnesium ratio is 2:1 – you need twice as much calcium as magnesium. Milk’s ratio is 10:1, while cheese has a ratio of 28:1.

What does this mean in practice? Relying on dairy products for calcium is likely to lead to a magnesium deficiency and imbalance. Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis!

A diet rich in leafy green vegetables, seeds and nuts are a far better source of these two minerals (and many others), in line with our needs and in balanced proportions. Yet more evidence that milk is intended for young calves; not adult humans.

Acidity and health conditions

The consumption of dairy products is strongly linked to a number of health conditions, ranging from cardiovascular disease and digestive disorders (such as coeliac disease and Crohn’s), to arthritis, diabetes and asthma.

There are a number of potential reasons for this, some of which are considered below.


For healthy blood and the efficient delivery of balanced nutrients to the cells of the body, the pH should be neutral or slightly alkaline. It is not a coincidence that sick people tend to be in the acidic range. Diet has a significant effect on the body’s acidity, through the consumption of either acid- or alkali-forming foods (i.e. foods that, when digested, produce an end-product that is either alkaline or acid). Dairy is at the top of the acid-forming list, along with meat and sugar. A high level of alkali-forming foods (such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds) are required to neutralise any harmful acids caused by such acid-forming foods.

Poor calcium to magnesium ratio

Most people assume that dairy is linked to heart disease because of the high fat content. In fact, more pertinent could be the poor calcium to magnesium ratio already mentioned above. More than any mineral, magnesium helps to protect against heart disease.


For the purposes of producing modern milk, cows are now selectively reared to produce milk during pregnancy. This milk is therefore particularly rich in oestrogen, as well as Insulin Growth Factor (IGF), high levels of which have been linked to disease.

Bovine serum albumin

There is growing evidence to link child-onset diabetes to an allergy to bovine serum albumin (BSA) in dairy products. This type of diabetes starts with the immune system destroying the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. It has been theorised that diabetes-susceptible babies introduced to BSA earlier than around 4 months (before the gut wall has matured and become less permeable), are therefore more likely to develop an allergic response. The highest incidence of insulin-dependent diabetes is found in Finland – the country with the highest milk-production consumption.

Poor nutrient content

Nutritionally speaking, dairy is bad news in a number of respects. For example, almost half of the calories in whole milk come from saturated fat, and nearly all of its carbohydrates come from sugar (all in the form of lactose, which many people can’t properly digest). Plus, dairy has no dietary fibre or iron.

It is best to get advice maybe before going dairy free, if you would like to speak to Marlene about allergies or intolerance’s that you are struggling with please contact her on 01803 401001.

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