Elimination Diet Update: the Reintroduction of Dairy

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I made it!  Finally!  I got through the 24 days of a gluten/dairy/soy/corn/egg/sugar/alcohol free diet to the reintroduction phase.  As I shared in a previous post, there were some moments of touch and go where I was feeling a bit deprived.  But I managed to persevere knowing that the next step (eating some cheese!) would arrive soon.

And so it did.  On Thursday and Friday (aka, Elimination Diet Days 25 – 26), I got to reintroduce dairy into my diet and monitor my symptoms.  Here is what I ate on those two days…

Menu Day 1:

  • Plain 2% milkfat yogurt
  • Dairy-free smoothie with pineapple and arugula
  • Dairy-free beef stew with carrots, potatoes, celery, onions and peas
  • Dairy-free rice cake with cashew butter and toasted unsweetened coconut
  • Kota Kopanisti with a simple Greek salad

Menu Day 2:

  • Dairy-free smoothie with cherries and spinach
  • Chili (made from my mom’s recipe) with cheddar cheese and sour cream
  • Apple
  • Lamb chops with Brussels sprouts and a baked sweet potato with blue cheese / sour cream / jalapeno / lime juice topping (slightly modified from the recipe in the Junior League of Dallas‘s Dallas Dish cookbook)

My initial reaction to the dairy was all about taste – a reminder of how sour dairy tastes to me when I haven’t had it for a while.  In fact, when I leave it out for a period of time, I’m always surprised at how much I don’t like the taste when I reintroduce it.  How is it possible that I’ve been known to eat only cheese and crackers for dinner, but I don’t really like the taste of dairy products when my palate is clean?!  (I’m not sure that makes any sense at all, but I’m going with it!)

But beyond that surprise, the more important observations are related to the physical and mental changes that occurred as a result of eating dairy.  During the 24 days of no dairy, my immune system was given the opportunity to reset a little bit.  With its reintroduction, I could see exactly what effect dairy has on me.  Turns out I experienced a lot of symptoms in the following 2+ days!  (It can take up to 72 hours for immune-related symptoms to show up after an exposure.)  Here are my symptoms in chronological order, including today:

  • Brain fog, mild belching and a bit thirsty on the afternoon of day 1
  • Mild abdominal cramps after dinner on day 1
  • Small zit at the corner of my mouth when I woke up on day 2
  • Increasing sinus congestion after dinner on day 2
  • Stiff ankles, swollen fingers, hives around my eyes, and more sinus congestion than normal when I woke up today (day 3)

I’m certainly not saying that all of these symptoms are solely related to consuming dairy.  After all, we are complex creatures with intricately and intimately related systems.  Is it possible I had some brain fog because I waited too long to eat lunch on day 1?  Sure!  Is it possible the stiff ankles today are because I didn’t work out yesterday?  Absolutely!  Is it possible that all of the new (and I know they are new because I was tracking my symptoms for 5 days before the reintroduction) symptoms I experienced when I reintroduced dairy are related to something other than the dairy?  Probably not.

By following the protocol, I now know that dairy has a negative impact on my body.  It is not a severe effect and I’m not going to die from it.  But the odds are that I will feel better on the days I choose to be dairy free than I do on the days that I choose to consume it.

At least now I know.  And that means I get to make an informed decision about eating dairy products.

Onwards to the next step…

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