When clients come to me with acne that just wont budge, I completely understand their frustration, because my gosh, I know better than most what it’s like to not remember a day without acne. My acne was mostly on my chin and jawline, occasionally stretching down my neck. It was always sore, pustular and red, and no matter what treatment I tried, it continued to stay there. Until I bit the bullet and addressed something that I knew was the biggest concerns for my health; dairy.
Finding the courage to take dairy out of my diet for good has made a major difference to my health. That might sound silly – “finding the courage” – but in a world where dairy is one of the major food groups for a lot of people, cutting out dairy was an incredibly difficult thing to do. People roll their eyes, dismiss your symptoms, and are confronted by a choice that only really affects them if they decide to cook for you. Then of course, you have to deal with your own fears of letting go of a food that has been such a staple in your life – “but I can’t live without cheese?!!” – let me tell you, it one was the hardest for me to give up, too.
But, that’s why I wanted to share it with you. For me, dairy has always been a problem. Even as a baby, the dairy formula I was given gave me massive gut issues, yet I still ate dairy every single day until my mid-20s. I found it so easy to convince myself that it wasn’t that big of a deal, but because of this stubbornness, this fear, my face was covered in pustular acne every single day, right up until mid-2017 (years after I began to phase it out of my diet). Before I realised I was in fact lactose intolerant, I routinely thought I had a bout of food poisoning, as I’d rush off to the toilet and be stuck there with a clammy fever-like feeling for the next half an hour or so. This was my normal, and my gut health has suffered tremendously over the years as a result, but making the commitment to cut out dairy has improved my health in ways I didn’t imagine, and continues to do so.
Now that I’m dairy free (and gluten free) my skin is the clearest it’s ever been, and stays that way. My digestion is certainly getting there (some things are always a work in progress), but I don’t feel like I’ve got gastro every month, and things are certainly beginning to normalise. The surprising thing for me, though, is that I don’t really like cheese so much anymore (goats cheese is no longer my jam, which was a total shocker) , and the idea of cream now just makes me want to vomit – yes, really. I don’t miss these foods in my life because as fun as they were at the time, we’re lucky enough to have some fantastic alternatives that taste amazing and don’t make me feel gross, heavy and filled with guilt afterwards (even if I’ve eaten a piece of cake). I just feel satisfied.
If you’re concerned dairy might be an issue for you, here’s what I suggest:
- Cut all forms of dairy out of your diet for 2-4 weeks, then reintroduce it and see how your body reacts. If you do have a reaction (usually diarrhoea, post-nasal drip, bloating, cramping, or even headaches), book yourself in and together we’ll heal your gut (which may mean you could eat it again some day)
- Experiment with alternatives
- Nut mylks – coconut and macadamia mylks are great in coffee, but theres also almond mylk, cashew mylk (the easiest one to make yourself), quinoa mylk, whole soybean mylk (Bonsoy), oat mylk, rice mylk – they’re all great in smoothies, but do take some time to get used to if you haven’t had them before
- Vegan cheese – I’ll cut straight to it, cashew cheeses (such as Peace Love & Vegetables, Kehoes and Botanical Cuisine), coconut based melty cheeses (like BioCheese) and drool-worthy macadamia feta by Botanical Cuisine 😍 are the best ones. You can also make it yourself with nutritional yeast and herbs of your choice – so addictive!
- Coconut yoghurt – sugar free is best. I love Born Cultured and Nudie
- Coconut ice creams – taste just as good as the real thing! There are a few low-sugar options too. I love CoYo, Over The Moo, Zebra Dream and if you’re out and about, places like Gelatissimo have dairy free chocolate sorbets (they have a sugar and dairy free one, which is a lovely treat)
- Coconut oil, lard and extra virgin olive oil (I personally can still tolerate grass-fed butter and ghee, but everyone is different, so see what works for you)
- Remember the impact that eating dairy can have on your body. Most clients tell me that ‘it’s ok, it’s just a bit of bloating’, but in reality, the bloating is a symptom of the damage and inflammation occurring within your gut, and the acne is a reflection of the inflammation that’s going on inside the body. Everything in the body is connected and has an effect on all other areas of your health. By discounting these symptoms, you’re really just doing your health, and yourself a disservice. One small change can truly make all the difference.