8 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Dairy
Thinking of going dairy-free? Read this first.
Your bones could get weaker
Milk is chock full of calcium, protein, vitamin D, and other minerals important to building strong bones. Most of your bone building takes place in your childhood and teenage years, but you never outgrow the need to keep those bones strong. If you’re on a dairy-free diet, you’ll have to find a way to replace those lost nutrients, says Kelly Pritchett, PhD, RD, CSSD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Milk has been referred to as being important for bone health because it contains both calcium and vitamin D,” she says. “However, there are other sources of food containing both of these vitamins and minerals. In fact, our best source of vitamin D is from the sun—food isn’t a great source.” Get your daily doses of calcium from leafy greens, fortified orange juice or almond milk, and broccoli. These are clear signs you’re not getting enough calcium.
You should pay more attention to your blood pressure
Even though its calcium gets most of the hype, milk is also packed with potassium, which helps the body fight the potential blood pressure-raising effects of sodium. The DASH diet, which lowers blood pressure effectively without medication, calls for people to increase fruits, veggies, and dairy, says Isabel Maples, MEd, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “People who just increased fruits and vegetables got a reduction in blood pressure, but when they mixed it with three servings of dairy, that’s when we saw big jumps,” she says. “It’s not just what you take away, but what you add to bolster health effects of better blood pressure.”
Your weight might change
Be mindful if you’re developing a dairy-free diet as a weight loss tactic. While dairy products can add major calories (think: cheese and ice cream) in excess, some studies have shown that milk promotes fullness and helps maintain a healthy weight. “I don’t think there’s conclusive evidence here,” says Dr. Pritchett. “This really depends on the person and what they replace the milk with in their diet.” Don’t miss these dairy myths you should stop believing.
Your skin might clear up
Several observational studies have found links between acne and milk, especially skim milk, but none found a connection with cheese or yogurt. Still, without clinical trials researching skin changes after only adjusting dairy, the American Academy of Dermatology says the evidence isn’t strong enough to recommend cutting out foods to clear your skin. “The evidence suggests that diet does play a role in acne,” Whitney P. Bowe, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at State University of New York Downstate College of Medicine in Brooklyn has said. “Patients can be their own best detectives in determining possible food triggers for acne.”
Your lactose intolerance could feel worse
If you’re lactose intolerant, you’re missing the enzyme that normally breaks down milk sugar, which is why you could have stomach issues when you have dairy products. But if you don’t cut dairy from your diet, you’ll actually reduce symptoms by increasing the healthy bacteria in your gut. “If someone is lactose intolerant, even severely, but still consumes dairy food, the body increases bacteria that turn around and breaks that lactose down,” says Maples. You likely can still handle two servings of dairy a day. Just space it out into smaller portions throughout the day and drink it with food so it doesn’t digest as quickly. Find out 7 symptoms of lactose intolerance.
You could feel less bloated
If you’re someone that blows up like a balloon after a bowl of ice cream, a slice of pizza, or even just a glass of milk, a dairy-free diet might be the solution. Usually, if your bloating is severe, it’s caused by lactose intolerance. Like we said before, there are pros and cons of going dairy-free to relieve yourself of lactose intolerance. But if you’re ditching dairy for good (meaning absolutely no more snacking on small servings), you’ll feel better and far less bloated.
You might decrease your risk of cancer
Some dairy products are inflammatory, so your risk for cancer drops if you have a dairy-free diet. A 2001 study found that high calcium intake––mostly from dairy products––increased men’s risk for prostate cancer, because it reduced the amounts of a hormone that is thought to prevent the cancer. Plus, depending on the kind of dairy you’re buying (mass-produced vs. local), it may have pesticides, added growth hormones, and other potentially carcinogenic ingredients, which have all been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Considering going dairy-free? Here are 11 flavorful, smart dairy swaps for your favorite dishes.
You’ll want to stock up on probiotics
Probiotics, which regulate your gut flora (read: keep you regular), are plentiful in dairy products like yogurt, kefir, and soft cheese. These little microbes have multitudes of benefits, but if you’re dead set on nixing dairy, you can still get probiotics from tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha, and pickles (hint: fermentation = lots of probiotics). Next, learn about more surprising calcium sources for those who don’t eat dairy.