My journey to ditching dairy was probably easier than it was for most people. For starters, I was born with a severe milk allergy. Milk is one of the most common allergens, and the majority of the world cannot digest lactose, the sugar in dairy products. All this to say, most cultures and people live just fine without eating cow’s milk.
Suffering Through the Symptoms
When I was in elementary school I outgrew all of my allergies and was able to reintroduce strawberries, pineapples—all of these foods I had been avoiding for years. For some reason, dairy just would not sit well, even though all of the other foods I added into my diet had no issues. I tried eating yogurt because I wanted to have balanced gut flora (because in my 10-year-old brain, I thought yogurt helped your tummy work better). I ate ice cream for dessert, and I ate protein bars with dairy in them. I never was able to eat cheese without getting sick, and I never drank milk straight from a glass. I had a few scares with allergic reactions to whey protein in granola bars or other packaged foods even though I supposedly did not have an allergy anymore, but other than that no real issues.
When I got to college, I started working with a sports dietitian in an attempt to achieve peak body composition for performance in my sport. One of the first things I was told was that I needed to be eating more protein, and was given free samples of protein water, protein powder, and was given a meal plan that included multiple servings of Greek yogurt each day. Despite feeling sick, I was a rule follower, and should have invested stock in some of these brands based on the amount of ice cream and yogurt I consumed while trying to hit my unrealistic and unhealthy macronutrient goals.
Meanwhile, I was experiencing a sharp decline in performance, I felt sluggish, I was not recovering as well as I once was, and I was experiencing no change in body composition. When you are active roughly 3 hours a day, recovery is crucial. I found myself in what seemed to be an endless cycle of injury and re-injury, continually pumping myself full of milk protein in a futile attempt to recover with what I was told was the highest quality, most absorbable, most efficient protein.
Making the Switch4Good
I finally got fed up with feeling sick, frustrated with trying to eat foods that I didn’t like the taste of, and annoyed that my performance was continually declining. I started slowly swapping out dairy yogurt for soy yogurt, ice cream for real food that actually has micronutrients, and reading food labels incessantly to ensure that I wasn’t giving my body milk protein without realizing it. Almost overnight, my joint pain went away, my muscle aches vanished, my weight stabilized, my skin glowed, and I was not sore after working out anymore. I wish I were making this up as a marketing ploy to sell you a product. If I had a pill to help people look and feel better seemingly instantaneously, it would be sold out and back ordered for months to come. I have nothing to personally gain by you ditching dairy for good—but you do.
You may not even realize what dairy is doing to your body. I know I certainly didn’t. I just thought that was how my body normally felt. Sometimes, we don’t realize how abnormal our normal is, because we experience abnormal every day. Our bodies are not meant to be sluggish. Our bodies are not meant to get cancer and plaque build-ups. Our bodies are not meant to take days to recover from training.
Funny enough, during my peak dairy intake years, I broke three bones (in the span of about two years). Since swapping out dairy products for healthier, more nourishing alternatives, I have had no issues with fractures, sprains, tears, or any of the other injuries that plagued me throughout my college days. Milk does not build strong bones, and that myth needs to die right along with the myth that you need to eat your body weight in grams of protein to build muscle and the myth that dairy is the highest quality protein.
After going plant-based, I feel better than I did when I was sixteen, I am recovering efficiently from every workout, and I no longer have the symptoms of inflammation that I was living with every day for years. Do the right thing for your body—ditch dairy, and make the Switch4Good.
Article written by Emily Hautbois, CSCS / Switch4Good, a nonprofit coalition of athletes, scientists, doctors, and everyday active folk paving the way for a dairy-free future.